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Akadémiai Kiadó

Questions Arising up from Thinking about Chinese Music


Author(s): Ivan Mačak
Source: Studia Musicologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, T. 44, Fasc. 1/2 (2003), pp. 263-
267
Published by: Akadémiai Kiadó
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/902649
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QuestionsArisingup fromThinking
aboutChineseMusic
Ivan MACAK
Bratislava

Abstract: ThinkingaboutChinesemusic I am tryingto find answerson differentques-


tions. 1. Whatimplicationon Chinese culturehad events in down the historyon tem-
tory present-dayChina?2. Whatresult/from/ syncretismof Chinesemusic with other
phenomenaof Chineseculture?3. Whatimplicationon formationof Chinesetonal sys-
tem hadthe cyclic principleoftuning? 4. It seems to me the music in Europereflects an
ideal imaginationof known world and music change - in some way - accordingthe
new recognitionofthe world.Whatcausedabsenceof similarevolutionin Chinesemu-
sic? The differencesbetween Chinese and Europeanculturerelate to differentvisions
ofthe categoryoftime, andit has seriousconsequencesin the field of music.
Keywords: Chinesemusic

MythinkingaboutChinesemusichasbeenformedintoquestionsandanswers.
Especiallythequestionsareveryimportant in connectionwiththistheme.It is
possibleto feel the significantdifferencebet;ween
Chineseandourmusicbut
onedoesnotimmediately realizewhythesedifferentfeelingsaregivenrise.
Question:
Is thegeographical isolationof Chinanotthemainreasonofthedifference be-
tweenChinesemusicandmusicof othercultures?
Chineseterritory is consideredfor;;FarEast"andin generalframework, it
is knownthatgeographical obstacles,whichthe travellershavehadto face,
usedtobe reallytroubling.Forinstance,MarcoPolo'sjourneyto Chinalasted
threeyears.Ontheothersidetheinfluenceiiom theWestwas spreadto Chi-
neseterritoryliketo anotherareas,as well. However,it didnoteffectoreven
changethelocalculturetradition.
Otherquestion:
Couldcyclicprincipleandcircumstances, thatcausea rise of tonalsystemsJ
bea sourceofspecificityof Chinesemusic?
t I thankIng. Erika PisarEfkovafor hervaluablecommentson the preparationofthis report.

Studia Mxsicologica Academiae ScientianumHungaricae 44/1-2, 2003, pp. 263-267


0039-3266/2003/$ 20.00 Ei 2003 AkademiaiKiadd,Budapest
264 Ivan Macak

Authorsaddictedto thistopic2didnoteliminatethepossibilitythatform-
ing of thetonalsystemswas influencedby theothercultures.Accordingto a
legend,the emperorHuangTi askedhis ministerLingLunto createa tonal
systemsandhe travelledto thebordersof barbarian territoryto fulfilthere-
quirement.If the impulseto formea tonalsystemshadbeen obtainedfrom
abroad,it hasbeeninfluencedby somethingof domesticculturewhathasbe-
ganto connectto specialviewsonapplication ofthesetonalsystems.
I hadbeenthinkinga lot aboutthe issuerelatedto evolutionof Chinese
music.WhenI visitedChinain 2000,I triedto findananswerto thequestion:
Wherein Chinesecultureshould onelookforparallelism inevolutioninEuro-
peanmuslc!
. n

Tryingto questionmusicologistsandmusicalpedagogists,I noticedthat


theywerenotreallyfamiliarized withtheseproblems.Someof thempointed
attheconstancyoftheancientprinciples whichwasprobablycausedbydoubt
aboutlosingidentity.Duringthe lastmillenniumthereweremostlyforeign
dynastiesrulingin China,andtendencyto keeptheseancientprinciplescould
be understood as aneffortto keeptheoriginalidentity.Be thatas it may,this
reasoningis notconvincing.I havedecidedto findanotherexplanation.
I haverealizedthatmyquestioning is directedtodetails,whilethesequences
seemto be ignored.To understand Chinesemusicwithits wholecontextwe
needtoperceiveitsfimctioning, anditsvariouslinksasPickendeclares:3
The ancientChinesewriterLu Pu-Weexpressedhimself:"ableto speakof music
onlywitha manwho hasgraspedthemeaningof theworld."Whywas this?Itwas
becausetheChineseregardedmusicas animageof universe."Musicexpressesthe
accordof HeavenandEarth"and"producestheharmonybetweenmenandspirit".
Itsobjectwas notto pleasethesenses,butto conveyeternaltruths.
This attitudeto music shouldbe acceptedas an organiccomponentof
wholeculturebecausetheculturebuilds,,arooiFu'
aboveall phenomenonthat
arecomplementary connected.
2 Kaufmannstates:,,LingLuntraveledfromthe westernto the shadynorthernside of MountYuanYu"
(WalterKaufmann:MusicalNotations of theOrientBloomington-London,IndianaUniversityPress 1967,
15). Karpatiquotesthe samemythos as Kaufmann,andin differentcontextadds:". . .in this case, exception-
ally, the origin myths must be much closer to reality.. ." (JanosKarpati:Myth and Reality in the Theoryof
ChineseTonalSystem.Hypothesisfor the solutionof a tripleproblem.In:StudiaMusicologica Academiae
ScientiarumHungaricae22, 1980, 9). Picken characterizeslocation where the mythos occurredin detail:
"LingLunwent fromthe west of the Ta-Hiaandcame to the northof the valley YuanYu". [ . . .] "Ta-Hiahas
recentlybeen identifiedas the countryof the Tochars,a people who had lived on the south-easternborderof
the Gobi desertat least since the 13th centuryB.C., acting as agentsbetween easternandwestern civiliza-
tions."He continues:,,The system of HuangTi stems from the same root as the (much later)Pythagorean
cycle of fifth. Frommany considerationsit is temptingto anticipatethe earlyhome of the principlesof Chi-
nese music as Iyingsomewherein the PersianandMesopotamianregion".(LaurencePicken:ChineseMu-
sic. In: GroveDictionary ofMusicandMusiciansII (C-E). Fifth Edition.Reprint1968, 221).
3 LaurencePicken, ibid. 219.

StudiaMusicologica ilcademiae ScientiarumHungaricae 44/1-2, 2003


aboutChineseMusic
QuestionsArisingupfrom Thinking 265

Ipointedoutthenextquestion:
Which phenomenon andimpulsescouldhavea significantimportance regard-
ingformation of Chineseculture?
KonradLorenzsays:"progress of humancultureoffersseveralnoteworthy
analogieswithphylogeneticdevelopment of species."4
ThinkingaboutChinesecultureI wouldliketo assertthattheChinesebe-
long to the very firsthumangroupin Eurasiathathas startedto be differed
fromthe othersby specificgeneticfeatures.It was provedby Americanan-
thropologist Ch.G. TurnerII.5Dueto studyoccupiedwithdentalresearchof
AsianpopulationsHomosapienssapiens,he dividedtsvocategories:sunda-
dontsandsinodonts.He foundoutthatthe secondcategorywas separatedin
Chinaand Mongoliaapproximately 20.000 years ago! The new category
startedto differin culturalway,as well. Whatis more,especiallythiscultural
differenceof sinodontscouldbe statedas thereasonwhytheydidnotexpand
to thecloserterritoriesinAsiabutto theunknownterritories inAmerica.
Shamanism hadanexceptionaleffectonChineseculture.6 Thanksto itsin-
fluenceit canbe declaredwhytheoriginalChinesereligionsarenot focused
onlyon theworshipof godsbuttheyperformthefunctionof cosmologyand
theyty to provideharmonyin theuniverse.7Theshamanistic visionantici-
patestheideaof thegenesisof the"Empireof theMiddle"or"CelestialEm-
pire"andalsoexplainsthelatterregardtothestarAurora- thehighestpointof
universeordering- aroundwhichthestarskyrotates.Shamanism is alsofelt
in the backgroundof the "universeaxis"vision - a fictitiouspillarthatis
sometimestransformed intothe formof a sacralmountain,or cosmictree.
Usingthis"axis"shamancanpenetrate intootherworldsinordertocommuni-
catewith celestialandunderrate beings(gods anddaemons).The universe
axisrepresents theintegrationof a humanbeingin thefixedorderof theuni-
verse,andit createspremisesforanunderstanding of Chineseritualsthatpro-
videharmonyintheuniverse.If intothesquare- representing theuniversein
Shamanism - we conttivethecentreasthe"universeaxis",we gettheChinese
schemeof a scale of five tonesandthe universesignswhichareconnected
withit.Everything suggeststhatitwasprobablyShamanism whichignitedthe
conceptionof the originof theuniverseat thebeginningof formingChinese
culturethathasbeentheleadingoneforallthemillennia.
4 KonradLorenz: 8 smrtelnichhrichu [Die acht Todsundender zivilisierten Menschheit].Pyramida,
Praha1990, 58.
s Felix R. Paturi(Ed.):KronikaZeme[Die ChronikderErde].Bratislava:FortunaPrint1995, 467.
6 MirceaEliade:DeVinynabozenskjoch predstava idei II. Bratislava:Agora 1997, 34.
7 Mary Schmidt:Silena Moudrost:Samanjako zprostfedkovatelskutecnosti.In: Samanizmus.Rozsi-
rena vize reality[Shamanism.An expandedview of reality].Bratislava:CAD Press 1994, 70.

Studis Musicologics Academise ScientisrumHungaricse 44/1-2, 2003


266 Ivan Macak

AllthetimeI amsearching fortheanswerstothequestion:


Which signsandimpulses couldbesignifcantfortheformingof Chineseculture?
TothepreviousnotesI wanttoaddthatinconnection withshamanism influ-
enceshouldbesearchedalsoforthereasonwhytheChineseartis different iiom
theartof othercultures.I illustrate
anexampleof obtaining visionsof whole.
Changesabouttheideaof thewholein Europeareconnectedwithchanges
aboutknowledgeof the universe.Imaginefor examplea conceptionof the
universeresultingiSrom the theoryof Ptolemai,Newton,or Einstein.It is
knownthatnewknowledgeencouraged artiststo intuitivelycreateanewideal
of the structureof thewhole,so thattheycoulduse this idealto createtheir
worksof art.Cognitiveprocessesandalsothe creationof worksof artinter-
lock,andthereforewe canspeakabouttheirevolution.Wecannotspeakabout
evolutioninthissensein Chineseart.Justas shamanscanmoveinspacewith-
outtimerestriction, so Chineseartistscanlookfora presentvisionof theuni-
verseinthepast.
Worthyof remarkis thatthevisionofthe universeto whichChineseartists
returnin thepastis notin conflictwithpresentdayscientists'visionaboutthe
universe.FritjofCaprahasdrawnattentionto thefactthatthemostsignificant
ideasof modernphysicsfindharmonywiththeideasof Taoism.Taoismdeals
speciallywithharmonyon thesubatomiclevel,whereelementsaredestructi-
bleandindestructible atthesametime;wheresubstanceis continuousandalso
discontinuous, while energyand substancearetwo differentaspectsof the
sameevent.Capraquotedthewordsof RichardWilhelmthatweresaidbyhim
in theintroduction to thetranslationof Ijing:
eighttrigrams. . . is understoodso, thattheyarein a stateof continuousconversion
whenone is changedto another,so thatone eventis continuouslyconvertedto an-
otherin the physicalworld.This is the basicconceptionof Ijing. Eighttigrams,
thesearethesymbolsfortansientphenomena;theyarepicturesconstantlysuscep-
tibleto change.Attentionis concentatedon thingsnotin the stateof being- as it is
obviousin theWest- buton theirmovementsin conversion.Andso, eighttrigrams
do not describethingsas they are,but offer a descriptionof theirtendenciesto a
movement.8

JohannesvonButtlaraddsto thiscontext:
Chineseexpression"Tao"was used by the mystic Lao-c' to express"indescrib-
able"principleof universe- Bohmwouldsay:"toexpressits implicitorder.9
LaterButtlarparticulanzed
thisBohmstatement:
8 FrithofCapra:Taofyziky[TheTaoof Physics]. Bratislava:Gardenia,1991, 218.
9 Joharlnesvon Buttlar:Boh nehra v kocky. Osud alebo nahoda? [Gottes WiBrfel.Schicksal oder
Zufall?]Bratislava:Slovensky spisovatel'1994, 51 and 56.

StudisMusicologics
AcademiseScientisrum
Hungaricse44/1-2,2003
aboutChineseMusic
QuestionsArisingupSromThinking
267
Wecouldimagineimplicitorderas thebasicreason,apartEomtime,thatone unit
andeachmomentis shownin anexplicitworld.
It seemsthata returnto thepastcangive to Chineseartiststhe sameim-
pulsesnecessaryto createavisionof thewholeasnewscientificknowledgeto
artistsinEurope.
On the basisof questionsarisingfromthinkingaboutChinesemusic,in
conclusionI wouldliketo saythatthedifferencesbetnveen ChineseandEuro-
peanculturerelateto differentvisionsof thecategoryof time,andit hasseri-
ous consequencesin thefieldof music.Whereasin Europeanculturetimeis
an inseparablepartof religionandalso of the cognitiveprocess,in Chinese
culturereligiousvisionsalmostfallwithinthevisionof order,andthevisionof
orderworksas thebasicreasonapartfromtime.Thatis whyworksof artby
Europeanartistsmustbe changedaccordingto changesin the cognitivepro-
cess,andthatis whyworksof artinChinaareinsusceptible to sucha change.If
thisvisionaboutthedifferencebetweenChineseandEuropean cultureshould
be confirmed,we wouldhavehadto faceseriousconsequences relatedto this
phenomenon.

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StudisMusicologics