Residence: Beijing, China
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/15/13
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): Chinese
Analysis/Observation: The song is played on a traditional Chinese instrument called a “zither”. It is a Chinese folk instrument that is plucked as a harp. Like most Chinese instruments, it is either played in D or G major, and usually consists of five notes: Do, Re, Mi, So, La. There are 21 strings, and the sounds get lower as strings get thicker. The green strings symbolize the note “So”. It is made of wood, and usually has traditional art carvings along the side of the instrument, and is hollow inside.
The song is called “Xue Shan Chun Xiao”. Translated roughly, it means “Spring on the Mountain.”
The song started out very slow and sweet. The informant performed it with slow, exaggerated motions in her arms. She seemed very peaceful. In the middle, the song suddenly picked up pace and there was a very intense section where her fingers are moving very fast. She has an intense expression on her face, although it also looks like she’s concentrating very hard on plucking the right notes. The song ends with a “bang” like effect.
Informant (translated) : “The song is a minority dance song that is supposed to mimic the flow of water when it is spring. When the snow melts from a mountain, it starts slow, then suddenly goes faster and faster as more ice melts.”
Me: “When is this song normally performed?”
Informant: “It’s a more modern song that comes from the Dai minority. However it’s not a dance song. In traditional fol music, you have dance songs, and then you have solo songs. It’s actually used a lot in music exams because of the technique you need.”
Analysis: The Dai people reside in the province of Yunnan, where there is a mountain called the Jade Dragon Snow mountain. The mountain is approximately half the height of Mount Everest. The piece of music is most likely referring to this mountain and the flow of water into the river come spring. The Dai minority is commonly known for their festive dances that they do at the spring festival, so the song is not commonly played during the festival as it is not a dance piece. It is more often played during concerts or as a prelude to a show.
Annotation: Due to the large file of the original recording, it could not be uploaded. A link to the same piece (played by someone other than the informant) has been attached.
A variation of the GuZheng appeared the popular film “Gong Fu” or “Kung Fu Hustle”, which opened in 2004.
Recently, using Chinese traditional folk instruments to play pop music has become a trend. A girl playing Adele’s Rolling in the Deep on the zither went viral in Chinese forums.