John Thompson at the guqin. Like the four on the wall, guqins should be hung vertically so the wood won’t gradually curve.

John Thompson will play and discuss the guqin silk-string zither at the Arizona Senior Academy at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 15). Thompson comes here from performing at the opening of an exhibit of ancient Chinese musical instruments at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix.

According to legend, the guqin (“old stringed instrument,” pronounced goo chin) has been played for about 5,000 years. Surviving music dates only since around the 6th century CE, but even the earliest surviving melodies show why it is considered always to have been an instrument of great subtlety and refinement.

Throughout its long history the guqin has been the musical instrument most prized by China’s literati. They categorized it as one of their “four arts,” collected it as an art object, praised its beautiful music, and built a complex ideology around it.

Thompson has a degree in early Western music and graduate studies in ethnomusicology. He studied the modern guqin tradition with a master in Taiwan then moved to Hong Kong, working there for many years as artistic consultant to the Festival of Asian Arts.

He has a repertoire of over 200 guqin melodies learned directly from 15th to 17th century scores. Most of these can be heard on his CDs or his website, www.silkqin.com, but his online recordings have often been copied in China, with listeners assuming he is a Chinese master. He has performed widely and also published books, CDs and music transcriptions about the guqin.

Thompson’s ASA presentation will include performance plus a discussion of the history, written music system and repertoire of this fascinating ancient instrument.

Come and find out about the only Chinese instrument to have been recorded on the gold record that NASA sent into space on Voyager 1 and 2 in 1977.

Written by Janet Barrett, Academy Village Volunteer

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The Guqin, from Ancient China to Outer Space:Nov.2017
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