by Barry Moore, Glasgow Branch Chairman, and Graham Thompson, Website Editor, 24 June 2012
The 46th AGM of the SCA was held on 16 June in the impressive surroundings of the Senate Room of the University of Glasgow, courtesy of the Confucius Institute. Some 20 members braved appalling weather and, after the formal business, enjoyed a fascinating presentation by SCA Vice President Eddie McGuire on Chinese music and instruments.
The photos below show the performance by Eddie McGuire and Laura Durrant.
His talk ranged from bone flutes of 9,000 years ago to the so-called “Yellow Music”, such as “Shanghai Jazz” popularised by American musicians such as Buck Clayton and his band, but frowned upon by the Nationalist “New Life” movement in the 1930s.
Eddie demonstrated not just a wide and deep knowledge of the subject, but he was also able to show, and in many cases, play, some of his unique collection of Chinese instruments. These included bamboo flutes (di-zi), the bawu (with its brass reed that led to the development of the concertina), bronze gongs and cymbals. Many ancient instruments were made from natural resources ; hard wood and silk for bows, stones, resin from trees, bamboo for wind chimes and flutes, wood blocks and coconut shell, used in a type of fiddle (er-hu), and to simulate horses’ hooves in some musical pieces.
In addition to exhibiting and playing the various instruments Eddie provided an array of posters, books, pamphlets, records and posters to complement his talk.
He noted that the further back you go in time, the more similar human songs, tunes and instruments become. For example, he compared ancient Chinese “jade bells”, made from slabs of that valuable material, to the “lithophones”, or resonant slabs of slate, found in northern England and Scotland. Others, such as the er-hu, or “upright fiddle”, yangqin (hammered dulcimer) and pipa (lute) have links to Middle Eastern and Persian music, while the suona, still used in Chinese marching bands and ceremonies, is very similar in concept to the Breton “bombard” or, indeed, a bagpipe chanter. Other instruments demonstrated included ocarina (xun) ; Chinese mouth organ (sheng) ; and Chinese zither (gu zheng).
Eddie did, however, have a more modern surprise for the audience - a performance in honour of the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo. Laura Durrant, dressed as a panda, leapt out to perform the dance she had devised for Children’s Classic Concerts. Her energetic and graceful movements, against scenery of bamboo plant and river, blended with Eddie’s specially composed music - including the tune of a panda song co-written by Fong Liu. Laura’s panda then played cello before ending with a lively Panda Dance. Eddie even donned a panda costume himself, as can be seen from the photos. Tian Tian and Yang Guang would, we are sure, have enjoyed it all as much as the AGM's human audience.