Compositions

The styles, contents and structures of various art forms, whether it is literature, painting or music, have been changing with time. This similarly applies to qin music. A same qin piece in a Qing Dynasty handbook differs a lot from that in a Ming Dynasty one. Having new development does not mean discarding the tradition. Qin lovers of the present generation, faced with the vast heritage, besides rediscovering and maintaining the tradition, should explore new directions and add new elements onto the traditional foundation of qin music. Since 1986, I have attempted to compose new pieces for the qin. These were performed in Hong Kong and Mainland, and some were published in CDs. Qin lovers interested in my compositions have asked me for the scores. To facilitate the process, I have put some of these scores onto this website. Qin lovers are welcome to download the scores for their own practice. These are not for sale nor for publication without my permission.

Because my book Exploring the Secluded has included the scores of my compositions before 2016 in cipher and tablature notations, this website would only include scores in staff and tablature notations, as well as those compositions after 2016.

Marble Surface

Three Poems by the Drunken Li Bai

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (2017)

 

    According to literature, the famous Tang Dynasty poet, Li Bai, wrote three famous poems while drunk for Emperor Xuanzong and Consort Yang. The three poems were then set to music and sung by the court musician Li Guinian. With such background, this composition starts with free rhythm and shifting modality to depict the drunken mood of Li Bai. Variants of a motive of the qin piece Drunken Elation are interspersed in the music. Some of the phrases use a special hemitonic pentatonic scale (re, mi, fa, la, ti) similar to that found in past court music. The main melodies for the poems utilize the elegant yayue heptatonic scale. The special hemitonic pentatonic scale in two different keys in the qin and xiao parts creates an interesting contrast to the melodies of the poems.

Download score in cipher and tablature notations

 

Chan Chak-Lui (vocal); Ken Wu Yun-Kan (xiao)

Marble Surface

Music for Confucius 63/Confucius: 63 Revisited

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan(2016)

  This was written for the plays, Confucius 63/Confucius: 63 Revisited, staged by Chung Ying Theatre Company. Below are three of the short melodies, performed by Tse Chun-Yan on the qin (silk strings) and Tam Po-Shek on the xiao.

1
00:00 / 01:41
2
00:00 / 01:24
3
00:00 / 01:39
Marble Surface

The Sonorous Mountains

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (2014)

 

    The title of this qin and xiao duet is based on a quote from a master painter of the Southern Dynasties, Zong Bing, who said "when I play the qin, I attempt to make the mountains [in his paintings] sonorous". This piece, written in traditional musical scales complemented with modern elements, is divided into several sections with zen subtitles. At the start, seeing "mountains are not mountains", the qin plays harmonics in parallel fifths, dialoguing with the xiao in shifting modality. After the introduction, "the mountains are sonorous". The main melody is played in D yu mode in yayue scale, which is further developed into a climatic section in D shang mode in suyue scale. After the climax, a melancholic mood is depicted in "bells of the old temple" in D zhi mode in kuyin scale. After that, "the mountains are silent", and the introductory section reappears, but now, "mountains are mountains" again.

Download score in staff notation

 

Ken Wu Yun-Kan (xiao)

Marble Surface

Romance Re-born

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (2002)

 

    This short and elegant melody was written for a romance drama series of Hong Kong TVB in 2002. Just for interest, lyrics were added in 2013 together with a friend of mine, Jasmine Bux, and Yu Mei-Lai was invited to try singing the piece. 

Download score in staff and tablature notations

 

Yu Mei-Lai (vocal); Ken Wu Yun-Kan (xiao)

Marble Surface

Composition in Jue Mode

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1999)

 

    Traditional Chinese music was usually written in modes of gong (do), shang (re), zhi (sol), and yu (la). The jue (mi) mode was rarely used except in music of the ethnic minorities.

 

    This piece has been composed in an attempt to incorporate the jue mode of the heptatonic bianzhi (♯fa) scale with the qiliang (melancholic) scale found in qin handbooks of the Ming Dynasty. There is a touch of freshness on comparison with qin pieces of the Qing Dynasty.

Download score in staff and tablature notations

Marble Surface

The Autumnal Sacrifice

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1997)

 

    A poem without words -- in loving memory of my late grandmother.

    Composed in modern style, the piece has four short sections:

 

       Back from a dream
       The autumnal sacrifice
       Artificial flowers
       Candle tears

Download score in staff and tablature notations

Marble Surface

Composition in Shang Mode

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1990)

 

    There used to be a special scale in the shang mode pieces from the middle volume of Shenqi mipu (1425) with much use of semitones, and which could easily be taken as in the gong mode. It is a pity that simplification took place in versions in subsequent generations with elimination of the semitones, and the uniqueness of this scale vanished.

 

    This piece composed in the ancient scale is an attempt to bring back the special interest that is age-old yet with a fresh appeal.

Download score in staff and tablature notations

Marble Surface

The Falling Plum Blossoms

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1989)

 

    This is a duet of qin and xiao (vertical bamboo flute) composed on the bianzhi (♯fa) scale in the traditional form of qin music. These two instruments are brought together in free counterpoint instead of traditional unison.

 

    The music describes the sorrow of LI Yu (937-978), the king of a subjugated nation (Nan Tang), as expressed in a poem of his, "Like heavy snow the plum blossoms fall, I wipe time and again but cannot get rid of them all."

Download score in staff and tablature notations

 

Sou Si-Tai (xiao)

Marble Surface

The Oil-Lamp Flickered

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1988)

 

    This composition was based on the structure and style of traditional qin music, with modulation before the ending section to enhance its musical appeal. The composer was inspired by a poem written by NALAN Shengde (a scholar of the Qing Dynasty) in which he lamented the transient reunion with his late wife in a dream. The poem ends like this: "The moment I embraced her the oil-lamp flickered, and I was left alone gazing at the glaring lamp-glass."

Download score in staff and tablature notations

Marble Surface

Composition in Bianzhi Scale

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1987)

 

    The bianzhi scale is a traditional scale formed by adding ti and ♯fa to the pentatonic scale. This composition with free counterpoint between the qin and xiao adds new meaning to the traditional style.

Download score in staff and tablature notations

 

Wang Youdi (qin); Ricky Yeung Wai-Kit (xiao)

Marble Surface

Promenade on an Autumn Day: Three Short Poems

 

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1987)

 

    This piece makes use of the unique sound qualities of the qin and contemporary composition techniques to create the mood of modern poetry. The piece has three short sections:

       Stars on the lake
       Solitude of Lin Zexu’s statue
       Autumnal leaves.

    The first two sections, in free rhythm, employ many semitones and have ambiguous tonality. The third section uses two different pentatonic scales alternately performed with open string notes and harmonic notes, and closes quietly with a dissonant interval.

Download score in staff and tablature notations

John Yiu Shek-On (qin)

Promenade on an Autumn DayPlayed by John Yiu Shek-On
00:00 / 04:31
 
Marble Surface

Composition in Yifan Mode

Composed by TSE Chun-Yan (1986)

    Yifan mode is a commonly used musical scale in Guangdong music, mainly in sol mode, with emphasis on ti and fa (corresponding to yi and fan in the traditional gongche notation respectively). This composition modulates between two yifan modes a fourth apart, which ultimately merge together towards the end. The traditional yifan mode is also called the "melancholy tone", and the music is usually sad. However, this composition reflects the vigor of the music of a Guangdong gin master of the past generation, Yang Xinlun, and the mood expressed is quite different from that of the traditional "melancholy tone".

Download score in staff and tablature notations