Cute kids before the Zheng

Cute kids before the Zheng

Dan Copes Each day is jam-packed with different activities and events, so it's difficult to keep track of what happened when.

This morning (June 13) Dr. (Jing) Luo gave a presentation on Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism. I thought it was very interesting. There were a few Chinese students in our classroom, and they were able to comment on our discussions.

Afterwards I went to the cafeteria with some friends, and it was the most packed I'd seen it yet. We got there around 12:15 p.m., and apparently most students come around 11 a.m. if they want to get a table easily. I felt lost in a sea of Chinese students, as I tried to find my table!

In previous days, we did a lot of cool things. We went to a local kindergarten and sat in on the kids' English class. It was really fun and the kids were adorable. I thought it was amazing they were learning English that soon in their lives. I remember when I was in kindergarten — and from time to time — we would learn some Spanish, but it wasn't nearly as intensive.

Their entire class was taught in English alone!

That same day we went to the music school on campus. Being someone who loves music, of course I was very excited for this. A music professor there gave us a lecture on different sorts of folk music in China.

I spoke with her later and found out she taught Voice and Music Theory. She also introduced many of the traditional Chinese instruments. Afterwards we listened to four different pieces featuring some of the instruments she touched on.

When we were finished listening we attempted to sing one of songs we heard. She passed out some sheet music, and I was really surprised by what I saw. Rather than have a staff with notes on it, it was a much more simplified version. It sort of reminded me of guitar tablature for the voice.

It listed the key and the time signature and the lyrics like normal, but to identify which pitches to sing it listed scale degrees instead (the numbers 1-7). If you know the key you're in you can sing each step of that scale. There are symbols to indicate which octave to sing in and whether to tie the notes.

Also for rhythm there are different lines that will symbolize how long to hold each note. I was really impressed by this form of notation and surprised that we have nothing like it in America (although I don't study vocal music, so perhaps some people have seen it).

It seems like it's very efficient. It was very difficult to sing the songs though due to my lack of skill of the Chinese language. It was really fun though nonetheless.

After we spent some time there, we visited some of the students who were practicing their instruments. The first we saw played was the Zheng (sounds sort of like "Jung"). I was so impressed with how the student played it, she was extremely skilled. It's a very emotional instrument, and I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Being that I play guitar, it was something similar for me. I could have played that thing for hours. It lays flat on a stand almost like a slide guitar but there are 21 strings, I believe, and you pluck them and strum them accordingly.

There are bridges of sorts in the center of the strings and on the right side you strike the strings and the left side you can bend the strings to produce different notes. I was so fascinated with this and as soon as I get the chance I plan on going somewhere to play another Zheng.

I'd bring one home with me if I could. Perhaps I could find one in the States?

Did I just find my new favorite instrument?!

    — Dan Copes, a junior health sciences major