chapter  19
20 Pages

Some Mysteries of Kunqu Music and its Melodic Characteristics 1

WithLindy Li Mark

This chapter discusses the specific prosodic/musical form that the arias in Kunqu take: qupai, and from there move on to describe the intrinsic musical characteristics and aesthetics of Kunqu music and finally illustrate them with an analysis of what is surely the most famous aria in all of Kunqu. Chinese historical writings on music are replete with remarks extolling the human voice over the sound of musical instruments. The expression gongpu, in the context of Kunqu, denotes specifically song or play text, or an anthology of such, with musical notation written in small characters to the right of the lyrics either vertically as in JGDC, or diagonally in the so-called suoyi style. The general characteristics of Kunqu melodies composed long ago in accordance with qupai prosodics have never been described beyond fairly vague descriptors such as “water milled”, or wanzhuan, and so forth.