Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chinese Percussion Instrument

Chinese percussion instruments are not simply rhythmic instruments that each set can be played independently and they play an important role in setting off the musical contents and opera plots and enhancing the musical expressiveness. There is a great variety of percussion instruments in China, with playing skills that are rich and have distinctive ethnical styles.

Hong Kong Post launched the stamp set feature the Chinese percussion instrument on November 2003. The issue comprise of four stamps and one souvenir sheet. Each stamps depict the Chinese percussion instrument , Drum, Gongs, Clapper, Cymbal, Chimes.


Although its exact origin is still unknown, drum occupies a prominent place in Chinese culture. According to the ancient literatures, it might as old as Chinese history itself.The existing earliest documentation of its application occurs in Oracle Inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty (1600B.C.-1100B.C.). As an old and wonderful form of art, the drum has been employed in almost every aspect of Chinese social life, including sacrificial and worshiping ceremonies, farming, and warfare.

During its development, Chinese drum performance arts have undergone many regional as well as ethnic variations. As a result, today they produce different visual impacts and bring to the viewers different senses of beauty. Some are masculine, giving off a sense of invincible mighty, and some are more delicate with nimble and graceful dancing steps.
The paiban  is a clapper made from several flat pieces of hardwood or bamboo, which is used in many different forms of Chinese music. There are many different types of paiban. It is held vertically by one hand and clapped together, producing a sharp clacking sound.
When used together with a small drum (both played together by a single player, the paiban held in one hand and the drum played with a stick held in the other) the two instruments are referred to collectively as guban.
When used as part of a guban, the paiban is used in several genres of shuochang (Chinese story-singing), as well as in Beijing opera, kunqu, and Shaoxing opera. It is also used in instrumental music, such as Jiangnan sizhu, Chaozhou xianshi, Sunan chuida ,nanguan, shifan luogu and Shanxi batao .

Cymbals are a common percussion instrument. Cymbals consist of thin, normally round plates of various alloys . Cymbals are measured by their diameter often in inches or centimeters. The size of the cymbal affects its sound, larger cymbals usually being louder and having longer sustain. The weight describes how thick the cymbal is.

Cymbal weights are important to the sound they produce and how they play. Heavier cymbals have a louder volume, more cut, and better stick articulation (when using drum sticks). Thin cymbals have a fuller sound, a lowered pitch, and faster response.
This instrument is used and often in Sichuan Opera. Sichuan Opera is quite raucous and has lots of percussion instruments to accent the movements of the actors. They were frequently used in Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907) with varying designs. Now it is commonly made of high-tin bronze.
Large chau gongs, called tam-tams (not to be confused with tom-tom drums) have become part of the symphony orchestra. Sometimes a chau gong is referred to as a Chinese gong, but in fact it is only one of many types of suspended gongs that are associated with China.
The chau gong is made of copper-based alloy, bronze or brass. It is almost flat except for the rim, which is turned up to make a shallow cylinder.The earliest Chau gong is from a tomb discovered at the Guixian site in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region of China. It dates from the early Western Han Dynasty. They were known for their very intense and spiritual drumming in rituals and tribal meetings.

Chinese Chimes are made flat with sharp corners like two tiles pieced together. So, the sound wanes faster, making it possible to organize the bells into groups and play them as a rhythm instrument. Zeng Houyi's bronze chimes are perhaps the greatest find among all the chimes unearthed so far in terms of the size and significance.

Bianzhong is an ancient Chinese musical instrument consisting of a set of bronze bells, played melodically.These sets of chime bells were used as polyphonic musical instruments and some of these bells have been dated at between 2,000 to 3,600 years old.They were hung in a wooden frame and struck with a mallet. Along with the stone chimes called bianqing, they were an important instrument in China's ritual and court music going back to ancient times.
(Sources: Wikipedia, others information)

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