Having played the qin for six decades, at the courtesy of my student, the pieces that I most frequently played are now compiled and made available to be enjoyed by others.
Everytime after playing the qin, I recall lessons in my youth with the masters Zha Fu-xi and Wu Jing-lue. Their performances arose from both a profound self-cultivation and a direct expression of the spirit. When their emotions were elated, the dancing of the two hands and the treatment of the notes (combination of fixed pitches in harmony and polyphony) induced the innermost feelings of the heart. So many years passed, I try my best at playing qin “alike” my teachers instead of attempting at “development” or “innovation”. Today, when I play pieces such as Master Zha’s Misty Rivers of Xiao Xiang and Parting at the Yangguang Gate, or Master Wu's Memories of an old Friend and Autumnal Scenery beyond the Great Wall, although the treatment of fixed pitches and the structure of the melody may appear to be “alike” that of the masters, in reality, in grasping the spirit of the qin, I have reflected my own nature and self-cultivation.
In reviewing the development of qin in the past thousands of years, a new era undoubtedly appeared with the teachings of Zen in the mid-Tang dynasty. Beginning with the Song dynasty, and especially between the Ming and Qin dynasty, the performance and spread of the Yushan school was iconic for their interest in Confucianism, Daoism, and Zen. The art of qin appeared to be simplified, but in fact, it was more internalized. The focus was not only on “sheng” (sound), but also on the expression of the inner meaning of the heart. Recently, I played the Autumn Moon over the Han Palace of the Wu-Zhi-Zhai Qin Codex – it is a description of a woman’s strong desire to fall in love at the Han Palace. Now I try to play Song of Life in the Mountains of the same qin codex, the main tablature of the Yushan school, which bears the meaning of “the recluse who took the sky and earth as his abode – of just being in the nature, and another piece called Observing calmly, which expresses the Song dynasty Neo-Confucian master Zhou Dun-yi’s belief that “one can get all the feelings in nature at the status of being quiet”. I have grasped the inner meaning of the melodies and noted that although the two qin pieces are short, the former is “universal”, with a magical melody that is unconstrained and contains a combination and transformation of “sheng” (sound) and “yin” (note) that form a fixed and non-fixed musical medley; the latter allows one to be moved in quietness and to be silent in motion.
This recording, in order to convey more accurately the face of ancient notes over four to five hundred years ago, was performed with the famous Ming dynasty qin “Tempest”, with finely threaded silk strings.
Finally, I am greatly appreciative of Mr. Huang Chuan-yin for writing the title of this disc in Chinese ink. I would also like to thank my student Dr. Tang for being the project director and translator, as well as Mr. Huang Hong-jen from National Sun Yat-sen University in Kaohsiung for his contributions in recording and post production. Lastly, I would like to thank all of my friends who enjoy my music. Their encouragement motivated my performances and pushed me to achieve more progress in the transmission and reproduction of the ancient rhythms.
Wu Zhao (b.1935)
Descendent of a traditional qin family and music historian, Wu Zhao was born in Suzhou in 1935, into a scholarly home. He was raised under the influences of opera, qin, painting, and calligraphy, and had practiced under the qin masters Zha Fu-xi and Wu Jing-lue. After graduating in 1959 from the Department of History at Nankai University, Tianjin, Wu Zhao entered into the Folk Music Institute at the Central Conservatory of Music, and studied with the famous historian Yang Yin-liu in the history of Chinese ancient music. Between 1987 – 1989, he was appointed as director at the Institute of Chinese music history at the Art Institute of Music Research Office. In 1991, he was named researcher and director of the Beijing Guqin Research Association. In 1992, Wu Zhao was made a State Council special allowance expert for his outstanding contributions. He was appointed a PhD supervisor in 1993, and in 2010, Wu Zhao was named the representative inheritor for the art of qin, as a national intangible cultural heritage.
Wu Zhau has been invited to speak at University of the Philippines College of Music (1988); University of Michigan Center for Chinese Culture (1990); Taipei University of the Arts Traditional Arts Institute (1994); Department of South China University of folk music (2005, 2006 and 2011); Department of History, National Taiwan University; and Institute of Musicology (2006). He had served in the Music Department of the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (1989); Chinese University of Hong Kong (1990-1992); Beijing Central Conservatory of Music, Department of Department and as the external examiner of national musical instruments. He has also attended qin conferences and given recitals within China and in many countries and regions. Some of which have had the most impact were the Philippines Cultural Center Guqin Recital (1988); Seoul, Korea First East Asia Music Seminar (1993); Amsterdam, The Netherlands Guqin Festival concert series (2000); Art Festival Taipei Guqin "Xiaoxiang Shuiyun" concert ( 2000) ; Hong Kong Cultural Centre "Musical Merry - Wu Zhao Chen Changlin Guqin Recital (2003) / Beijing National Grand Theater" rhyme Fax "Guqin Recital (2011) / National Chiao Tung University, Hsinchu Art Festival ‘Misty Rivers of Xiao Xiang’ Guqin Recital (2011 ) and so on.
Some of Wu Zhao’s major writings include Illustrated History of Chinese Music; Treasures in Chinese Guqin; Voiceless Masterpieces; 30 volumes of Collection of Qin pieces (compiled); Selections of Ancient Chinese music (edited); Guqin Essentials (VCD) ; paper, "The combination and changes in qin sound and rhyme”; "Tradition and Modernity – Challenges faced by the Art of Chinese qin"; Guqin performance album Memories of an old Friend; Autumn Moon over the Han Palace (CD ) and so on.