EOL 8: Birth of a New Mode? (Dujunco)

2. Chaozhou Modal Practice

In xianshi performance practice, a single performance of a melody (qupai) by the ensemble normally consists of several repetitions of the tune and involves what is referred to as ban variation.6 In ban variation, each repetition of the melody features variations of the basic melody by means of augmentation or diminution, insertion of different melodic interpolations, change in rhythmic pattern, and acceleration or decrease in tempo. The succession of variants forms a suite-like structure called taoqu and follows an ordered sequence and changes in tempo.

The employment of the cui technique is an essential component in ban variation. With cui, repeated tones, passing tones, and neighboring tones fill in the space between the structural tones of the melody falling on the main and secondary beats of every measure to which the melody has been reduced. This increases the note density and has the effect of subtly accelerating the tempo of the piece and driving it forward. Thus, a performance of a qupai may start out slowly with an 8/4 time signature and then gradually accelerates in the successive repetitions in 4/4 and 2/4 time and, finally, in 1/4 time.7 However, throughout the performance of the ban variants, the structural integrity of the qupai melody is maintained.

The performance of a single taoqu composed of the ban variants of a given melody customarily occurs entirely in one diaoti, say, in L3H6. A switch to another diaoti takes place only with the performance of another set of ban variants - in short, another taoqu. But musicians very seldom perform the same qupai in different diaoti in succession.8 The common practice during a music session is to perform different melodies, and each one is rendered in a particular diaoti.9

Most melodies started out being performed in either L3L6 or H3H6. But some of them somehow came to be performed in other diaoti as well. For example, "Gold Shaking in the Willows" ("Liu Yao Jin"), a melody borrowed from the hanyue string ensemble repertoire and originally designated to be performed in L3L6, can also be heard performed in H5H6, L3H6 and Live5 (Example 1). "Chant of Auspiciousness and Morality" (Fu De Ci), which was originally in L3L6, is also performed in Live5 and has, in fact, surpassed the former modal variant in popularity. It is now almost always performed in Live5. "Jackdaws Playing in the Water" (Hanya Xishui), a melody originally in H3H6, has recently acquired variants in L3L6 and a relatively recent diaoti called which I discuss in more detail elsewhere.10

Consultation with musicians and musical analysis suggest four ways in which the switch from one diaoti to another is accomplished. But for the purpose of this article, I will discuss only two which would give a better sense of the notion and central role of modality in Chaozhou xianshi and which are relevant to what I had witnessed of the emergence of a new diaoti. One of the techniques of modal variation in Chaozhou xianshi is the interchange of the characteristic or structural tones of the scale. The switch between any of the four diaoti I have mentioned (and Live5) is basically accomplished by interchanging the mi (3) with the fa (4) and the la (6) tone with the ti (7) as structural tones. In the case of a shift to Live5, the ornamentation of re (2) and total exclusion of the mi (3) tone from the scale are also involved.

As Example 1 illustrates11 however, there is more involved in modal variation than systematically substituting one tone for another. It also involves manipulating the melodic line so as to emphasize the tones that provide the characteristic "flavor" (weidao) of each diaoti while maintaining melodic flow and coherence. In Example 1, which shows variants of "Gold Shaking in the Willows" in the four previously discussed diaoti, the melody in each of the variants tends to gravitate toward the tones that characterize the mode. In the L3L6 variant, mi (3) and fa (6) are given particular emphasis; in the H3H6, it is the fa (4) and ti (7) tones; in the L3H6 variant, it is the fa (4) and la (6); and in the Live5 variant, it is the highly ornamented re (2) as well as fa (4) and ti (7). Consequently, although they are similar in most of their phrase endings and cadence points (except for the second phrase which ends on the down beat in Measure 7), the melodic approach to these phrase endings and cadence points differ. This can be observed right at the start in the first three measures that make up the opening phrases of the variants.12 Certain parts of the melodies in particular, such as Measures 6, 13, 15 and 19, which show a marked divergence in the melodic lines of the four variants, also well illustrate the point.

I have mentioned earlier that the starting tone and the cadence tone of the modal scale are not considered very important as determinants of mode in Chaozhou xianshi. In Example 1, it can be noted that the variants of "Gold Shaking in the Willows" in the four diaoti I have discussed all begin with re (2), thus making it the key-note. In many traditional theories of the Chinese modal system, these variants would simply be considered to be in the shang mode which is based on a pentatonic scale series beginning with re. But what is considered and referred to as "mode" in the context of many Chinese regional music--that is, what is generated by using each of the tones of the pentatonic scale series in turn as the starting note resulting in various permutations of the scale--is actually considered a submode in the xianshi modal system. Mode in Chaozhou xianshi music is a broader concept and phenomenon and subsumes what is generally referred to as diao, diaoshi, or diaoxing in traditional Chinese music, hence my use of the term diaoti in this paper.13 Diaoti connotes a larger and higher domain that encompasses not only melodic aspects relating to scale such as pitch hierarchy and the intervallic arrangement of the pitches, but structural aspects relating to the articulation of melody arising from particularized configurations of the scale as well as tuning and temperament. In other words, as I argue and show in this paper, diaoti goes beyond tonality which is greatly emphasized in many traditional Chinese theories of mode.

Variants in any of the four diaoti discussed can be rendered in different diaoshi. The variants in the different submodes are referred to by the starting note (zitou) using the designated names of the gongche notation symbols corresponding to the scale degrees 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6, i.e. shang, che, gong, liu, and wu respectively (Table). Thus, the variant of a qupai based on the scale series with 2 as the starting note, for example, is said to be in the che zitou submode. But modal variation in different submodes, however, has so far only been undertaken with the melody "Gold Shaking in the Willows." Example 2 shows variants of this melody in the five submodes of L3L6.

Another technique of modal variation is that known as fan (literally meaning "to invert" or "to flip over"). The term fan refers to the practice of performers of the two-stringed fiddles in the ensemble such as the erxian, tihu and yehu of mentally interchanging the scale degrees originally assigned to the tones produced by the two open strings of their instruments (cf. Gao 1981:125-126). This effects something akin to a transposition of a fourth or a fifth up the original scale built on F, although the process and results are not quite the same, as will be illustrated below. Two diaoti are generated in this manner: fanxian and tiezhi fan.

To elaborate, let me turn to the tuning of the erxian fiddle. The two strings of the erxian are normally tuned a fourth apart to c1 and f1, which are normally designated as sol (5) and do (1) respectively. In one of the practices of the fan technique, the second string (f1 ) is made to assume the scale degree originally assigned to the first string (c1 ) in which case F gets designated as sol (5). The resulting re-sol relationship between the tones corresponding to the two strings implies a shift of the role of tonic to B-flat, a movement of a fourth up or a fifth down from the customary scale built on F, and the formation of a new scale with a different set of pitches which make up the basis of the diaoti called fanxian.

A second diaoti generated by using the fan technique is to make the first string of the erxian assume the scale degree originally assigned to the second string, in which case C gets designated as do (1) and, in relation to it, F becomes designated as fa (4). The resulting do-fa tonal relationship between the tones corresponding to the two strings implies a shift of the role of tonic to C, a movement of a fifth up or a fourth down the customary scale built on F, and the formation of another scale with a different set of pitches which make up the basis of the tiezhi fan diaoti.

The two processes just described, however, do not really result in the transposition into a different tonality in the Western music sense, because although there is an actual shift in terms of pitches, F remains conceptually designated as do (1). In a transposed scale in Western music, this would not be the case; the tonic would also shift and a new tone would be designated as do. Given the retention of F as do and the fact that the pitches comprising the scales are not equal-tempered, the intervallic relationships of the tones of the two modal scales formed by means of the fan technique are not the same as those between the tones in a transposed scale in Western music in which either B-flat or C is designated as do (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Comparison of the intervallic relationships of the tones in a fanxian modal scale and a scale in the key of B-flat
Figure 2

The difference in the scale degrees assigned to the tones comprising each of the two scales shown in Figure 2 implies a difference in their ornamentation and treatment during performance. In the fanxian modal scale in which F continues to be designated as do (1), the tone performed as H6 and designated as bianzhi (4), is a raised B-flat. Thus, to be precise, it is written as Bb, since it is approximately a quartertone higher than an actual B-flat, the designated do in the transposed scale in Western music. Examples 3.1 to 3.3 showing the first two phrases of Liu Qing Niang transcribed in three different modal variants perhaps illustrate the point better.

Example 3.1 shows the first two phrases of "Lady of the Green Willow" (Liu Qing Niang) in its original L3L6 mode. Example 3.2 shows the same two phrases in fanxian, which has been accomplished by a shift of a fourth down (or a fifth up the scale), with F continuing to be designated as do. Compare it with Example 3.3, which shows the same two phrases of "Lady of the Green Willow" in the L3L6 mode but this time transposed to the key of B-flat. It can be seen that although the fa (4) and sol (5) in Example 3.2 appear to correspond to same tones as do (1) and re (2) in Example 3.3, the size of the intervals formed by these two pairs of tones are not the same. The interval between the fa (4) and sol (5) tones in Example 3.2 is smaller. This is because the tone designated as fa (4), as I have already said, is actually a raised tone and, therefore, slightly higher than an actual B-flat, whereas the tone designated as do (1) in Example 3.3 is exactly equivalent to B-flat. For the same reason, the opposite is true for the interval between the tones designated as re (2) and fa (4) in Example 3.2. The interval between them is larger than the interval between the tones designated as la (6) and do (1) in Example 3.3.

These examples also illustrate how the melodic orientation of each scale also tends to be dissimilar since different notes are given prominence and emphasis during performance. It can be seen how Measure 6 in Example 3.2 in the fanxian mode took a different turn of phrase to avoid sounding like its counterpart measure in the transposed L3L6 mode. The tone designated as la was momentarily replaced by the tone designated as ti (7) tone in the cluster of notes, 1171, which could have been performed as 1161, the exact transposition of the cluster of notes, 5535, in the corresponding measure in Example 3.3.

Fanxian ("inverting the strings") is widely considered in Chaozhou music circles as the fifth most common diaoti next to the first four ones discussed earlier. However, it does not quite belong to the same category as them because of the process using the fan technique by which it is generated.

The fanxian modal scale consists of practically the same tones as L3H6. The two diaoti differ, however, in that the scale structure of fanxian came about as a result of performing a melody originally in the L3L6 mode a fourth up (or a fifth down) the scale changing the designation of F as do. In contrast, the scale structure of L3H6 is formed by the replacement as structural tones of the ti (7) tone by the la (6) tone, and the mi (3) tone by the fa (4) tone. Moreover, variants in fanxian do not have the mi (3) and ti (7) tones as much as do variants in L3H6 where they are often used as passing tones (Example 4).

Modal variation in the tiezhi fan mode involves performing a melody originally in either L3L6 or H3H6 a fifth up (or a fourth down) the scale, without changing the designation of F as do. It is the opposite of the process involved in transforming a melody in the L3L6 mode into the fanxian mode. The application of the fan technique resulting in the tiezhi fan mode are carried out on melodies originally in H3H6 more than on melodies originally in L3L6. Examples of melodies that are traditionally in H3H6 and have been transformed into tiezhi fan modal variants distinctly known as tiezhi zhongliu (tiezhi H3H6) are "Jackdaws Playing in the Water" (Hanya Xishui), "Raindrops Falling on the Jasmine Flowers" (Yujian Lihua) (Example 5), and "Red Lotus" (Fen Hong Lian). "Red Lotus," however, is also transformed into a tiezhi fan variant known as tiezhi qingliu (tiezhi L3L6, Example 6). This is done presumably by replacing fa (4) and ti (7) as structural tones with mi (3) and la (6) respectively in the tiezhi H3H6 modal scale after application of the tiezhi fan technique on the original L3L6 variant of the melody. Thus in the tiezhi L3L6 mode, we have the simultaneous application of the two modal variation techniques that have been discussed so far, namely the fan technique and the interchange of the characteristic and structural tones of the scale.

next: 3. Birth of a New Mode?

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