Development of Chinese Music

Chinese music has been documented since 1122BC and is a big part of Chinese culture and politics.

Emperors recognized the significance of music in their culture and would choose folk music songs that reflected the image that they wanted to portray of their empire. These became their national songs and the first Imperial Music Bereau was created in the Qin Dynasty (221–07 BC) and was developed to supervise the court music and that of the military.

Traditional Chinese instruments are a variety of Plucked or bowed string instruments, flutes and percussion such as gongs and drums. Vocalists often accompanied the instruments. The music was based off melodic patterns using pentatonic scales rather then harmonic or rhythmic.

The New Culture Movement of the 1910s- 1920s brought in music from the west and Orchestral music began to become popular. Chinese musicians travelled to Europe to learn how to compose western music. There was an orchestra in most cities and musicians began adopting new instruments such as saxophones and violins. The Chinese national anthem was written during the Second World War and has a western style, it was only adopted as the national anthem after 1997.

They were influenced by jazz that was coming from the states and traditional folk songs were giving harmonies and bass lines. Communists made revolution songs the were meant to education people in more rural areas of the parties policies. Music was highly restricted and it was unthinkable to play songs that weren’t praising China or the government.

Modern Chinese music is a mixture of genres with new styles becoming more and more popular. It is mainly classical and pop that is the favourite. The music is mainly state-owned. Rock has had less support but is still has a growing fan base in Beijing and Shanghai. The annual Midi Modern Music Festival and The Snow Mountain Music Festival have been described as the Chinese Woodstock by western reviewers.

Modern mixing techniques and notations have recorder traditional music by improving the instrument quality and progressions. This has helped preserve traditional music and brings it to a wider audience. The band Hei Bao used western ballade influences using the English song Don’t Break My Heart.

With the Beijing Olympics Pop music was used to promote the event. State restrictions still apply to commercially produced music. Majority of music is released in Beijing and Shanghai before it is released to the rest of china through fear of CD piracy that is a major problem to the Chinese music industry. Hip Hop and Heavy Metal bands such as Chao Zai (Overlord) are also gaining popularity.

Modern Chinese music is not usually thought of when you think about China. In the west it is the traditional music that is thought of, especially orchestrated pieces from films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. With its emotional soundtrack it mirrors the traditional style in a modern format.

With the industrial boom and more international links, China will have more genres being produced and the smaller genres will grow and be refined. What subject matters the music will cover is hard to say but we are sure see china becoming a bigger music producer in the future.


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