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Xiansu beikao 弦索備考 "Reference Collection of String Music"

The Xiansu beikao 弦索備考 "Reference Collection of String Music" is a collection of music scores for orchestra compiled by the Mongol Rongzhai 榮齋 who lived during the late Qing period 清 (1644-1911). The manuscript of the book was finished in 1814 and includes the scores (gongchipu 工尺譜) for 13 pieces. The collection was made because traditionally there were no written scores for orchestras, but music was only transmitted orally. The Xiansu beikao is therefore the first written collection of music pieces for orchestra. The pieces includes seem to date at least from the eighteenth century. The collection is 6 juan "scrolls" long and divided into ten volumes. It begins with a description of "finger methods" (zhifa 指法) and a complete orchestra score (zongpu 總譜) of the two tunes Shiliu bang 十六板 and Fenchuan 岔串. The rest of the book contains the separate scores for single-played instruments like the pipa lute (pipa pu 琵琶譜), the three-stringed lute (xuanzi pu 弦子譜) or the hu fiddle (huqin pu 胡琴譜), with 11 tunes for these instruments, and 13 tunes for the large zither (zheng pu 箏譜). The Shiluban score includes six parts for the instruments pipa, three-stringed lute, the fiddle and the zheng zither, as well as a basic gongchi tabulature and the baban tabulature 八板譜 for all instruments.
A great number of the tunes were very popular and already circulating for a long time. The most important are Yue'er gao 月兒高, Haiqing 海青 and Pu'an zhou 普庵咒. For some tunes, it is explained whether there were different versions in the eastern and western quarters of Beijing.
In 1955 the Yinyue press 音樂出版社 published a modern version of the Xiansu beikao in whith the tunes are transcribed on modern Western five-line staves (wuxian pu 五線譜) and Chinese single-line stave with numbers (jian pu 簡譜), with the title Xiansu shisan tao 弦索十三套.

Source: Liu Dongsheng 劉東升 (1989). "Xiansu beikao 弦索備考", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Yinyue wudao 音樂•舞蹈, Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe, p. 727.
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November 22, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail