Sounds of China

Traditional Music: Chinese Orchestras

Jan. 25, 2006

Despite China’s long musical history, Chinese orchestras are relatively new. The push for developing a distinctly Chinese performing arts repertoire came with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. In the years after, Chinese orchestras mirroring the operational style of Western orchestras, such as having a baton-waving conductor and divisions of instrument families, began to form.

Chinese orchestras initially focused on indigenous folk music, but in the last twenty years, they have developed and performed new works, and their four sections-- bowed-strings, plucked-strings, wind and percussion—have been augmented with new instruments with lower pitch ranges to balance the high pitches of the more traditional instruments. Join scholar Joanna Lee as she guides classroom audiences through the sounds and structures of the traditional Chinese orchestra.

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