Chinese musicology

From Academic Kids

Chinese musicology is the academic study of traditional Chinese music. This discipline has a very long history. The ancient Chinese defined, by mathematical means, a gamut or series of 12 frequencies (called the 12 lǜ) from which various sets of five or seven frequencies were selected to make the sort of "do re mi" major scale familiar to people who have grown up in the United States and the United Kingdom. The 12 lǜ approximate the frequencies known in the West as A, B flat.....G, and A flat. The Chinese system is not an "equal tempered" tuning, so playing "do re re mi so so" starting from the "key" nearest to A will not necessarily sound the same as playing "do re re mi so so" starting from some other "key." The effect of changing the starting point of a song can be rather like the effect of shifting from a major to a minor key -- except that there are only two such competing systems of intervals in general use in the West, whereas there are five systems of intervals in use in traditional Chinese music. (The Chinese equivalents of do re mi, etc. are gong, shang, jue, zhi, and yu, and the five scales are also given these names.)

For full details, as well as recorded examples, see: http://www.wfu.edu/~moran/Cathay_Cafe/template.html and choose from among the top three links.

The following diagram gives summary information on the several series of 12 lǜ (frequencies) and the various example selections of scales from among them.

Image:Modality.gif

See also: 一种体系 两个系统 by 陈应时 (Yi zhong ti-xi, liang ge xi-tong by Chen Ying-shi of the Shanghai Conservatory) This study was published in: Musicology in China, 2002, Issue 4, 中国音乐学,2002,第二 期

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