Ritual and Music of North China : Shawm Bands in Shanxi book cover
1st Edition

Ritual and Music of North China
Shawm Bands in Shanxi

ISBN 9781138056725
Published June 14, 2017 by Routledge
148 Pages 20 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

The rich local traditions of musical life in rural China are still little known. Music-making in village society is largely ceremonial, and shawm bands account for a significant part of such music. This is the first major ethnographic study of Chinese shawm bands in their ceremonial and social context. Based in a poor county in Shanxi province in northwestern China, Stephen Jones describes the painful maintenance of ceremonial and its music there under Maoism, its revival with the market reforms of the 1980s and its modification under the assault of pop music since the 1990s. Part One of the text explains the social and historical background by outlining the lives of shawm band musicians in modern times. Part Two looks at the main performing contexts of funerals and temple fairs, whilst Part Three discusses musical features such as instruments, scales, and repertories. The downloadable resources consist of a 47-minute film in two parts, showing excerpts from funerals and temple fairs (complementing Part Two of the text), while a separate section contains a magnificent 1992 funerary performance of a complete shawm-band suite. As a package, the book and downloadable resources illuminate the whole ceremonial context of music-making in rural China, illustrating the ritual-music experience of villagers, with lay Daoist priests, opera troupes, and beggars also making cameo appearances. While the modern stage repertories of urban professionals remain our main exposure to Chinese music, this publication is all the more valuable in showing the daily musical experiences of the majority of people in China. It will appeal to ethnomusicologists, anthropologists and all those interested in modern Chinese history and society.

Table of Contents

Contents: Foreword; Prelude; Part 1 Lives of Shawm Band Musicians: Musics of Shanxi province; Musics of Yanggao county; Shawm bands in China; Yinyang and gujiang traditions in north Yanggao; The Hua band; The Hua brothers; Other gujiang; A comparison; The Cultural Revolution; The reform era; Following fashion; Local goes national?; Yanggao pop; Sexism; The learning process; Tiantian; Fees and 'black talk'; The current scene; Scholarship; Our visits and the role of cultural officials; Washington 2002; UK and Holland 2005; Conclusion: lives and livelihood. Part 2 Shawm Bands and Daoists in Performance: Funerals and Temple Fairs: Introduction; Funerals; The 1st day; Inviting relatives and burning the treasuries; Transferring offerings; The burial procession; Temple fairs; Xujiayuan; Gushan; Lower Liangyuan; Conclusion: ritual and musical impoverishment. Part 3 Don't Mean a Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing: Instrumentation; Instruments and makers; Pitch, scales, and gongche; Learning heterophony and idiom; Melodic styles; Ostinato sections and cadences; Metre and percussion patterns; Repetition and variability; Repertories; Processional pieces; The 8 great suites; Vocal-derived 'small pieces'; Conclusion: ritual sound; Bibliography; Glossary-Index.

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Dr Stephen Jones has carried out fieldwork on local traditions of Chinese music since 1986. He is author of Folk Music of China: Living Instrumental Traditions (1995/1998) and Plucking the Winds: Lives of Village Musicians in Old and New China (2004). A Research Associate in the Department of Music at SOAS, University of London, Stephen Jones is also a violinist in London early music ensembles.


’... the fascinating DVD accompanying Stephen Jones's book makes the strongest possible case for taking this chosen corner of Chinese folk music seriously... Jones vividly shows [how] shawm-band ceremonies represent a priceless strand of continuity from imperial times.’ Michael Church, BBC Music Magazine (4 star rating)

'... an entertaining and interesting read... the real star of the book is the accompanying DVD, which is very nicely produced, and speaks volumes for the people and events narrated in the book.’ Thomas David DuBois, The China Journal

'Although there’s a lot of technical information about repertoire and scales, the text is readable and not weighed down by references, unlike so many academic books. It comes with a DVD that really brings the music and events to life - following the rituals at a funeral, a temple fair and talking us through one of the eight suites as performed by the Hua band. It led me back to the wild energy of their excellent CD Walking Shrill (Pan).’ Simon Broughton, Songlines

'... an exemplary [...] step along the road to integration of text and audio-visual documentation... Jones has once again made a major contribution to the Western-language literature on Chinese folk music and its embeddedness in the ritual life of villages and small towns.’ Helen Rees, China Quarterly

'... an important contribution to Chinese music studies. I recommend this book to those who are interested in music of the Northern Chinese Han people, to graduate and undergraduate students in anthropology and ethnomusicology, and to scholars in related fields... the packaged DVD that provides visual and audio assistance is a great asset of the publication.’ Journal of Folklore Research

'... in a style accessible to all readers of English....[Jones'] writings provide an intimate view into the lives of these musicians and into the social, economic and religious structures of the villages in which they work... [also] fascinating descriptions of traditional Chinese rituals, such as funerals, temple meetings and weddings.’ Helium.com (Recommended books on Chinese traditions)

'… extremely interesting and useful to cultural anthropologists and ethnomusicologists… The accompanying DVD is invaluable for conveying the feeling of the countryside, the people, their lives, and the ambiance of the rituals and music.' China Review International