Liberal Arts Blog — “Chuang Qian Ming Yue Guang”

Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is Joy of Music Day

Today’s Topic: Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People VI: “Chuang Qian Ming Yue Guang” (Li Bai, 701–762)

The first poem learned by Chinese children (north, south, east, west, Taiwan, mainland) is often formally titled “Jing Ye Si” (Quiet Night Thoughts) but is better known by its first line “Chuang Qian Ming Yue Guang” (A shaft of moonlight by my bed). I found out about this gem from two Chinese Adams House students back in 2009. Searching the web for the best version to memorize, I came across one sung by Gong Linna (1975 — ). Ever since, one of my favorite things in life has been greeting Chinese tourists at the North Bridge with her version. I always ask if they know of a musical setting. So far, not once. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate elucidate.

THE LYRICS: Li Bai (700–762) — one of the greatest of Tang Dynasty (618–907) poets

1. Chuang qian ming yue guang (the shaft of moonlight by my bed)

2. Yi shi di shang shuang (makes me think of the morning frost)

3. Ju Tou wang ming yue (I raise my head to look at the moon)

4. Di Tou si gu xiang (I lower my head thinking of home)

THE SINGER: Gong Linna (1975 — )

1. She deserves to be better known.

2. Her Youtube video still only has 29,203 views!!!!

3. It took me six years to find out who she was. It took me another two years to find out who the composer was — her husband, Robert Zollitsch. NB — spread the word!

Jing Ye Si

THE COMPOSER: Robert Zollitsch (1966 — ) aka “Lao Luo”

1. A specialist in compositions for traditional Chinese instruments.

2. “Zollitsch grew up with the Folk music of his home region, Munich, Germany, learning early in his childhood a classical Bavarian folk music instrument, the Bavarian zither.”

3. “From 1986 to 1990 he studied music theory and graduated from the Hochcschule fur Musik “Hans Eisler” in Berlin. In 1993, he was awarded a scholarship to study Chinese traditional music and the Chinese zither Guqin in Shanghai. “

NB: Also deserves to be better known. On his website there are, unsurprisingly, many quotes extolling his talents. One calls him “the Schubert of the modern world.” This song, to me, makes that claim worth taking seriously. Was there ever a more perfect marriage of text and music?

Li Bai

Quiet Night Thought

Gong Linna

Robert Zollitsch (composer)

YOUR TURN

Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.

This is your chance to make someone else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters to you.

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