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Sun 星期日 12noon

    Songs of the Earth 大地之歌

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    SONGS OF THE EARTH 大地之歌
    Sundays at 12nn   星期日正午
    Host: Colin Huehns 柯林
    Through the Karakoram Mountains to China
    A Musical Trip to Northern Pakistan

    My first foray into music outside the Bach, Beethoven, and Britten I had been brought up on was in the 1980s when I spent several summers collecting folk music in the Karakoram region of Northern Pakistan. Here, deep-cut valleys fringed by high mountains, snaking rivers, and majestic glaciers have produced a patchwork of ethnic groups, languages, religious affiliations, and musical practices. In the valley of Chitral, the most common instrument was a long-necked fretted sitar, equipped with steel strings and plucked with a wire plectrum. Its sound, small, delicate, and deeply expressive, covers a range of moods from the intimate and charming to the rugged and passionate. 
    Crossing high passes and after several days, the jeep trails reach Gilgit where they intersect with the Karakoram Highway. Northwards from Gilgit in Hunza, fresher and more exhilarating wind instruments are heard. Kal Bi Ali, senior musician of Mominabad, who recorded the music from Hunza broadcast in this series, played four different instruments: a small vertical flute like a descant recorder called a tutek, a double-reed shawm known as the surnai, a short metal flute called a bansari, and a long version made of apricot wood.

    Musical Instruments in Hunza
    In traditional Hunza society, the most common performance context was to accompany dancing that took place in front of the Mir of Hunza, the ruler of the valley, and the most frequent performance arena was, and is, the polo ground. Each melody is named after the local dignitary to whom it belonged, and only he and his affiliates could dance to the tune. In outdoor situations like this, the more forceful tones of the surnai are the most suitable, accompanied by drums, though Kal Bi Ali recorded unaccompanied, whilst the quieter, more mellifluous tones of the tutek match indoor performance. Particularly hypnotic and mystical is the Baitan melody, played for the Baitan, or shaman, on the long bansari.

    My Music Study in Xi’an
    In China, the two instruments historically most commonly associated with vernacular music making are the erhu and yangqin. As a violinist, I first studied erhu as a response to student demand that I perform on instruments indigenous to the cultures of the music I had studied. Whilst both violin and erhu are played with a bow, similarities between their techniques are few, and there is little intersection between their repertoires. It was probably the magical contours of melodic flow that are so much part of the erhu style that initiated my love affair with the instrument, just as the weaving and soaring flight of Hunza flute tunes has also left an indelible mark. To ensure I was imbibing a genuine performance practice from its deepest heart, I studied at the Xi’an Music Conservatoire for several years in the 1990s. The erhu was probably imported from Central Asia in the Song dynasty, but the yangqin or Chinese hammered dulcimer may have come with European traders in the Guangdong area about three hundred years ago. My starting point was simply to give a yangqin accompaniment to my erhu students, but the ravishing sounds of the instrument, often depicting nature, soon captured me. Poetry has seemed the best accompaniment, and Tang dynasty poet Meng Haoran, seemed to me to be the writer whose feelings most closely matched the yangqin sound. Here, my translation of his Staying in My Respected Teacher’s Mountain Cabin, Waiting for Eldest Brother Ding, Who Does Not Come, a poem set by Gustav Mahler (in German, based on a French translation) in the sixth movement, Abschied (Farewell), of his Song of the Earth.

    The evening sun crosses the West Ridge
    All the valleys are suddenly already darkened
    Through the pines, the moon gives birth to a night chill
    The wind and spring water flowing,
    in their fullness, can be clearly heard
    Woodcutters’ desires to return homewards are over
    In the mist, birds at roost have just settled down
    An appointment was made with a person to come and stay
    Alone with my qin, I wait on the creeper-strewn path.


    《宿業師山房待丁大不至》 孟浩然
    夕陽度西嶺,羣壑倏已暝,
    松月生夜涼,風泉滿清聽,
    樵人歸欲盡,煙鳥棲初定,
    之子期宿來,孤琴候蘿逕。


    7月份的大地之歌(英語),請來柯林擔任主 持。他在八十年代於劍橋大學就讀期間曾到 巴基斯坦北部的喀喇崑崙山脈收集當地的民 歌作研究之用。九十年代,他亦在西安音樂 學院就讀,隨金偉學習二胡,而揚琴則是 自學的。逢星期日中午12 時播出的四集節 目,柯林會在第一和第二集選播實地考察的 珍貴錄音。然後,他會親自演奏並介紹二胡 及揚琴。為配合所演奏的作品,他亦會朗讀自己翻譯的相關中國詩詞。

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    重溫

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    06 - 08
    2018
    RTHK Radio 4

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    A late nineteenth century lithograph by Wu Jiayou 吳嘉猷 (? -- 1893) produced in Shanghai and titled Hands Harmonious with Delicate Heart 心和心細

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    playing erhu (right)

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    Kal Bi Ali

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    Sultan Ghani (left) and Colin Huehns (middle) and a sitar-playing friend
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