Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Musical Instruments of Peking Opera - Short Video Tour

I have way too much video from last night's Peking Opera presentation by National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts and sponsored by the University of Alaska Anchorage's Confucius Institute. So I'm going to offer more than one post of the evening. The performance was more of a music education evening with an explanation of movements, stories, music, etc. and then vignettes from famous operas performed. The presenter brimmed with charm and knowledge and skill that came through even though he spoke in Chinese. The translator, unfortunately, captured only the words, not the charisma of the speaker who occasionally demonstrated movements in a way that suggested to me that he'd spent a fair amount of time on stage as an actor.

The actual vignettes were accompanied by recorded music, but at the beginning of the evening we were given a demonstration of percussion, stringed, and wind instruments. You can see the demonstration in the video. Which ends with part of the first opera vignette where you can see and hear the use of the percussion instruments.

For more, Philmulti gives a nice overview of Chinese traditional stringed instruments with pictures and a video.

From a post on a Chinese music forum:

Music accompanies singing. reciting. actions and acrobatics in Chinese operas. It also helps develop the story. personalize the characters. expose their thoughts and feelings. and create a special atmosphere.
The orchestra of a typical opera is composed of two parts -- the Wenchang. or Civil Section. of string and wind instruments; and the Wuchang. or Military Section. composed of percussion instruments. The former section accompanies singing. and the music is Qu (tunes). The latter accompanies the performers` body movements. reciting. singing. dancing and acrobatics.

The beats clearly mark the beginnings and the endings. Led by the main drummer. the music adjusts and controls the rhythm of the opera. The instrumental music is produced by various kinds of stringed. wind and percussion instruments. and each has its own functions and timbres.


  1. The video is excellent t.Music is something that you can see in every function and without it function is incomplete.

  2. Thanks CGin and Drum. Actually the musician was excellent and all I had to do was turn on my cam.

    Drum, I completely agree that music underlies everything (as does visual art). I've been thinking about this for a while - how our public schools see music and art as extra's, fluff, not serious. Yet somehow many kids find music and art on their own. Perhaps not having it turned into bad curriculum is a good thing. But having schools recognize the importance of music and art and offer good music and art opportunities would give students who don't fit in left brain oriented schools succeed in school.

  3. thank you for your beautiful video and interesting blog. very inspiring, perfect timing :-)


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