We return with a sweet sounding instrument thats a big hit in, and particularly associated with China, part of the hammered dulcimer family played in music across the Far and Middle East, India, Iran, Pakistan and Eastern Europe. Also variously spelled yang quin or yang ch'in (揚琴; pinyin:) meaning “acclaimed zither", the onomatopoeic quality of Chinese word certainly mimics that feeling of tight, twangy beauty. Traditionally fitted with bronze strings, many have also been known to have silk strings, and with a total lof 144 in modern instruments, with up to five for each note to increase the volume and spreading across four octaves. They are strung across a total of five bridges – bass, tenor, chromatic, left and right, variously struck on different sides, but mostly on the left, by hammers made of flexible bamboo. The clean, precise and complex nature of the instrument requires great skill. In someways the striking of the strikes is a precursor to how keys activate hammers on a piano, but with a different, arguably fresher sound.
The repertoire of the instrument is vast, but here in one outstanding example of its emotional and physical range is the brilliant Wang Yujue playing Yiu-Kwong Chung’s Girl from Kroran, a sonata piece accompanied by the Taipei Chinese Orchestra.
The rapid style of the instrument is also very well suited to some western music. Here’s a rendition of The Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, written in 1899.
And to illustrate how a simple melody can be enriched with many extra notes, here is a New York busker playing The Love Theme from the film The Godfather, written by the Italian composer Nino Rota.
Where else have you heard the yangqin in songs or instruments, on albums, or other context? Feel free to share your examples in comments below. Do these make you think of something else? Then also feel free to comment below, on the contact page, or on social media: Song Bar Twitter, Song Bar Facebook. Song Bar YouTube. Please subscribe, follow and share.
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