Travels through China Part 3

2010 February 1

As we continued our visit to the Minheng District Museum of Shanghai, Chinese Folk Musical Instrument Exhibition Hall, I was amazed at the quality of the flutes in the collection.

Chinese Mouth Organs, Sheng and Hulu si

Chinese Mouth Organs, Sheng and Hulu si

In the photo above there are some beautiful examples of Chinese mouth organs. The ones on the back wall are multi-reed pipes called sheng and the gourd shaped one in the front has only two pipes and is called the hulu si. The hulu si has one pipe that is simply a drone and the other has finger holes that can play melody. 

Chinese transverse flutes (dizi)

Chinese transverse flutes (dizi)

Here is a beautifully carved jade dizi (Chinese transverse flute). Notice the interesting finger hole pattern in the flute to the right. At first look it doesn’t make any sense. Some Chinese players play the flute right to left instead of left to right and this finger pattern might be a strange hybrid of both.

 

Chinese Xun (egg shaped ocarinas)

Chinese Xun (egg shaped ocarinas)

The xun is an egg shaped ocarina made of clay. This flute does not have a fipple like a South American ocarina but instead the player has to blow across the top like on a soda bottle. This flute produces a beautiful earthy tone and employs all the fingers of the player except the pinkie on the right hand. Even both thumbs are used.

Double reeds (Suona, Guanzi)

Double reeds (Suona, Guanzi)

In this display case we have some double reeds. On the right we have a very ornate suona. This instrument has a trumpet like bell and rather a kazoo type tone.  Almost like a coloratura soprano cross bred with a mosquito. On the middle stand we have the guanzi which has sounds similar to a saxophone.  In 2002, I was involved with a concert in China where we did collaboration with a guanzi player who was studying jazz and we performed a piece in the style of George Benson’s Affirmation.

 

pitched bamboo pipes

pitched bamboo pipes

Aside from a comprehensive offering of woodwinds, the District Museum also has a great complement of strings and percussion. The string collection includes bowed, hammered and plucked instruments of all shapes and sizes.  Some instruments normally the dimensions of  a small banjo were the size of double basses and there was also a wide array of gongs and metallophones 

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