Remote Stories [4.08]; The Channel [9.22]; Travelling Alone [3.14]; Last Cicada Singing [11.07]
Christopher Roberts (Qin)
rec. Seattle, August 2008 - January 2009
COLD BLUE MUSIC CB0034 [27.51]
The Qin is an ancient Chinese instrument - modern name: Guqin. It is a plucked seven string member of the zither family. It is very quiet and the player produces sounds by plucking, by glissandi and by other techniques akin to those used in the slide guitar. It has a range of about four octaves, the lowest string being tuned to around two octaves below middle C.
To an untutored ear, the sound is reminiscent of that of the twanging guitars of blue-grass music, though the prevalence of sliding and other techniques mean that there are also reminiscences of an early experimental Pink Floyd track.
Though the instrument is old, the music on this disc is new. Christopher Roberts studied the Qin in Taiwan in 1987 and the disc is dedicated to his teacher. Roberts describes the way that ancient Chinese scholars used to develop playing techniques to enable them to depict events in nature, such as the movement of birds. Christopher Roberts has extended this repertoire into the contemporary.
Roberts studied composition and double-bass at the Juilliard, but following this he spent a period alone with his double-bass in Papua New Guinea before his Fulbright Scholarship to study the Qin in Taiwan.
The resulting pieces are exotic and evocative. True to the traditions they sound half improvised. Their very quietness compels concentration from the listener, but provides a remarkably intense experience.
This isn't a disc for everyone. Its ethos is far distant from traditional Western classical music. But for those inclined to explore, do try this evocative disc.