The Ming Dynasty lasted nearly 300 years after the Red Turban rebellion overthrew the Mongol run Yuan dynasty in the mid 14th century. The Yuan run Mongols were never popular in China, which explained this occurring. The Ming Dynasty is sandwiched in history between the two large dynasties of the Yuan and the Qing. No doubt that there was some great historical music of this time. So let’s time warp back to centuries ago and hear some of the finest renditions of the music from that time, and see if it still sounds good today.
We begin with Autumn Reflections By The Dongting Lake (Dong Ting Qiu Si). It begins with Chinese stringed instruments and beautiful strings and wind instruments. It sounds really special and is really special. A great piece and a solid effort musically to listen to. There was no such thing centuries ago as popular music like there is today. This is a divine and magical listen from the depths of Chinese musical history. Beautiful, melodic, and very Chinese, it is a beautiful piece and melodic to boot. Just close your eyes and listen, this is fantastic.
Next is The Sunny Spring (Yang Chun) which is a lone string-based piece that sounds rather dark and eerie. It is deeply reminiscent of Chinese music, culture, and history. It’s an interesting listen and goes on for seven minutes, so strap on your musical Chinese goggles on and relax. The change in melody and tempo will dazzle you. A fantastic solo performance and a great sense of musical history and artistry here.
Fishing Tune (Yu Ge Diao) is next, featuring melodies and a great male singer here, singing of Chinese history and culture. There is a beautiful set of melodic instrumentation as well as singing here. Great stuff. It ends fairly quickly.
The Grievance of Lady Xiang (Xiang Fei Yuan) is a sole string instrument piece with historical intent. Great to hear, although just like the last track, it is very short in length. Beautiful and it demands close listening. It ends with some beautiful harmonics.
Next is At The Dressing Table (Bang Zhuang Tai) which is a beautiful wind instrument based piece. It is gorgeous, simple and has some string instrument accompaniment. It’s a deep, inspired and interesting listen from the history of the most populous nation on earth. It comes in fits and bursts, an excellent and colourful listen from the composers of this album.
Following is Orchid (Pei Lan) which is an extended string instrument solo that runs for around eight minutes in length. It almost sounds like a bass guitar in parts, yet is a great low key melodic Chinese sensibility. A good listen and a refreshing journey into times long gone in a musical sense. It is an interesting set of melodic soloing here. Strange listening though. It follows an unconventional melodic sense.
Chao Yuan Song (Chao Yuan Ge) is a more straightforward Chinese instrumental piece with multiple instruments. It is so beautiful and passionate that one cannot help but feel moved by this piece of Chinese musical history. Beautiful and interesting sounding, it points to the fact that sometimes less is more in recordings, compared to most pop recordings of today. Although this is not a pop recording by any means, it is simple and awesome. Great, once again.
Crows Croaking At Night (Wu Ye Ti) is not a DJ hit sampling actual crows. It is another quiet and melodic string instrument piece to hear. Like some of the tracks before it, it follows an unusual melodic composition basis. The whole piece is an interesting listen though, sounding almost like slide guitar in a strange way. It is dark and beautiful, a rare combination in music.
Next is Enjoyable Night (Liang Xiao Yin) which is a short two-minute piece, probably written in mind for a candlelit dinner in an era where there was no such thing as electricity. It’s a great melodic solo piece again and fits here quite well. Deep and moving listening.
The following piece Story Of Pipa: Eating Chaff (Pi Pa Ji: Qi Kang) is a more glorious-sounding piece with multiple Chinese instruments and great female singing in Chinese, although at times it is a little shrill sounding. A good number to this compilation of Ming Dynasty music. Not the best here, but even so, it is better than expected listening.
Tale Of Washing Dress: Encirclement (Huan Sha Ji: Qin Tiao) has gong sounds leading into a full-on choir singing. This is definitely a good surprise sort of listening experience, nowhere else would you find such a musical piece. It sounds fiery and passionate, and although is short, is very memorable. Great stuff. A glimpse into ancient China. It gets very noisy towards the end, with crashing drum rolls.
Tale Of Emerald Hairpin: Overtones (Yu Zan Ji: Qin Tiao) sounds like it was recorded decades ago and has sung melodies and a Chinese traditional musical backing. In any case, it is another interesting twist to the music on this album and is still essential for Chinese classical music fans. It stops the music in the middle for some Chinese speech, which is odd. It then resumes with the instrumental backing after about a minute. Bet you didn’t see that coming. The singing and musical accompaniment are interesting nonetheless. It sounds like something out of an old Chinese play.
Lastly, we have Wuxiake Muqam: The First Dastan Interlude (Wu Xia Ke Mu Ka Mu) which begins with a stringed instrument intro, before seemingly an entire Chinese orchestra procession kick in. It is a great way to finish off a very interesting and consistent combination compilation of music. The chanting is irresistible here, taking you elsewhere. A great combination of Chinese melodies and rhythm section to boot.
Of course, the music here is part of a series of recordings devoted to Chinese musical history. But still, it is great stuff. This is not to be ignored for Chinese culture fans and Chinese music lovers alike. It is very, very decent and interesting music, too.