The Book of Songs (诗经) and Erhu Compositions by Liu Tianhua (刘天华): Historical Sources for the Study of Chinese Music
This week’s research seminar in Lecture Theatre 1 of the School of Music will take place at 4.30pm on Thursday 2nd October. The speaker is Dr Colin Huehns (Royal Academy of Music).
Colin Huehns’ erhu teacher Jin Wei (金伟), Professor at the Xi’an Music Conservatoire, customarily refers to Liu Tianhua (刘天华: 1895-1932) as the ‘grandfather’ of the erhu, as he is normally accredited with instigating reforms in instrumental technique and construction which took an instrument previously played by beggars, sing-song girls, theatrical entertainers, and the rural poor, and turned it into a solo instrument of distinction, rich in modern repertoire, taught in conservatoires, and suitable for the concert stage. Through his own performance, in the first part of this seminar, Dr Huehns explores the ten erhu pieces composed by Liu Tianhua from the perspectives of musical structure, mode, and performance technique, and assesses their significance to the evolution of the repertoire. In search of a genuine history of the erhu, Dr Huehns has delved widely into Chinese literary sources, including Tang and Song dynasty poems, and Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasty popular novels, and the second part of this seminar discusses mentions of musical instruments in perhaps the oldest stratum of Chinese literature, the Book of Songs (诗经), said to have been edited by Confucius himself.