Comparing Traditional Chinese Music and Modern Chinese Music

Traditional Chinese music has a history of more than 8,000 years. Music in China was very much a part of the Confucian tradition, which used music for performing rituals. Some instruments dug up from archaeological sites of the Shang Dynasty including panpines, bronze bells and stone chimes date back to the 1766-1027 B.C. By the time that the Han Dynasty was established, the imperial government has created a Music Bureau tasked with collecting and editing the earliest melodies and folk songs. Contacts with Central Asia have led to the growth and development of traditional Chinese music.

Traditional Chinese music emphasizes proper inflection and articulation of each tone. Melody and tone are very important aspects of Traditional Chinese music. Much of Chinese music is based on the five-tone and seven-tone scale. Traditional Chinese musical instruments produce unique sounds that affect the variations in tone quality, beat, rhythm and embellishments that are very different from Western music. Although these instruments can also be classified into percussion, woodwind, plucked strings and bowed strings just like Western musical instruments, their distinct make, the materials used in their creation and the manner in which they are played are what make them different.

Modern Chinese music is similar to modern Western music. Modern Chinese music more frequently employs music lyric to evoke feelings. Like Modern Western music that can be classified according to genre, namely, classical music, country music, pop music, etc., modern Chinese music follows this classification. Variations stem from the uniqueness of the traditional instruments that Chinese music incorporates into modern music. Aside from the difference in language that make a Chinese song distinctive, the utilization of traditional Chinese musical instruments, their incorporation with Western musical instruments and the adoption of western styles and conventions in singing are what make modern Chinese music unique.


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