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Music that takes the high ground

By Zhang Kun | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-07-15 07:33

Tang Shengsheng from Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and Heping, a Tibetan musician from Golog, with a niujiaoqin in his hands, talk about how they make music together. ZHANG KUN/CHINA DAILY

"With Shanghai being the estuary of the Yangtze River, the collaboration between Golog and Shanghai brings together the two most important waterways of China," says Hou Liyu, deputy director of the SCM.

It has been a decade since Shanghai began providing assistance to Golog. By last September, the municipality had sent 98 administrative team leaders in four groups to Golog, alongside academics and experts across a wide range of fields, such as medicine, agriculture and the arts. Among them were Liu Zhaolu, head of the orchestral music department, and Tang.

"Golog artists' singing is like the snow-covered mountains, pure and natural, with a striking beauty," Liu says. "If we could provide some professional music training, I am sure they will create more possibilities that will take us by surprise."

"I began to play the piano at 4 years old, and all through my music education, from Shanghai to Germany, I played Western classics by Beethoven, Mozart and Chopin," Tang told China Daily before the concert. "I believe now is the time for me to share the colorful music of China with more people."

Heping is glad that he could share the Tibetan songs and melodies with musicians from Shanghai, and even happier to find that people are interested in the music and instruments.

"Even when we were rehearsing, someone came up to me, asking me to teach them to play the niujiaoqin," says the Tibetan artist.

After the premiere, he became more confident, saying, "I could maybe even take my music to other countries."

Golog is located in the heart of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters. In order to work with local musicians and create the ensemble piece, Tang made four trips there over the past year, staying a few weeks each time.

"At first we, from Shanghai, could not adjust to the high altitude, and had trouble falling asleep," Liu says.

It was no easy job collaborating with ethnic musicians.

"Back at home, they were used to singing and playing the instrument at the same time," Tang says. "It was usually a one-person show. For me, the challenge was to identify the characteristic of each instrument and create an ensemble of balance and beauty."

The ethnic musicians could not read music scores, as they hadn't been formally trained.

"But they all have great intuition for music," Tang says. "We improvised during the rehearsal, and when I was away we listened to the recordings and practiced from our audio records."

The SCM, established in 1927, was the first professional music school in China. "The school has always emphasized China's national musical heritage," Hou says.

Since the very beginning, the school had a Chinese music department. The SCM pledged to provide more cultural assistance to Golog and other areas among the underdeveloped regions of northwestern China. On July 3, the SCM officially authorized the educational administration of Golog to introduce the SCM music level examination system to the prefecture.

"In the future, we will keep on helping the development of music education in the northwestern regions of China by providing aid in music teacher training, according to their actual need," Hou says.

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