Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Er who?

This summer, I found myself in Barcelona moving through the pedestrian tunnels of the subway system. Not an average day for me. There was a busker there playing the Erhu. This Chinese instrument is often called the Chinese 2-string fiddle, and I can't think of a worse name for it because the sound it makes is nothing like the violin. It sounds like a mixture between a human voice and an oboe, and it makes the hair rise on the back of my neck in a way that, until that day, only the uileann pipes could do.

It seems to be a fantastically expressive instrument, with a huge dynamic range (ok - kinda like the violin) and the tone has a dual quality to it. I love it. And I'm hoping to hear it live when in China.

Take a look at the performance below. I really love the fact that the artists facial expression never changes from its rather stern reserve, but all the emotion comes streaming out through the instrument's tiny sound chamber.

Added later:

I've just read that this tune is the most famous of all erhu pieces and is called "Er Quan Ying Yue" (1950, Moon Reflected on Second Spring) by A Bing. It really bears listening to a number of times (despite some terrible crackles in the amplification at one point).

I'd love to know who the artist is, if anyone out there can read the blurry hanzi credits at the start. The text in red is definitely the song title, and I guess the two lines under that are the names of the two performers.

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