5 Melodies
for Solo Erhu (2003-2009)
by Ron Hannah

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  1. Lullaby, 2003 (Duration: 1')
  2. Hillside Overlooking Lhasa (beneath the prayer flags), 2005 (Duration: 2'50")
  3. Suzhou Taxi, 2005 (Duration: 1'30")
  4. The Great Wall at Mu Tian Yu, 2003 (Duration: 2'30")
  5. Elegy (in memoriam Jim Odell), 2009 (Duration: 1'30")

    The erhu is a 2-stringed fiddle very popular in China. I first heard it, oddly enough, in Canada at a concert of the Chieftains, an Irish folk group who had

    

toured in China and brought an erhu player back with them. The erhu is held on the player's knee, and if that player is accomplished it can sound uncannily like a human voice. This musician played both Irish and Chinese tunes, and I was fascinated. Much later, living in Suzhou, China, I had the opportunity to meet more Chinese musicians and learn about their instruments. My Chinese Impressions for erhu and guzheng is another legacy of that time.

     You may download the score free of charge by clicking on the button above, with the strict proviso that if you perform the piece that you send me the details by email (below) so that I can keep this website up-to-date.

     Lullaby (#1), is a simple tune, largely pentatonic, which I wrote to explore the instrument's sonority. It is pleasant, if not immortal. When a Chinese player performed it for me I knew I could write for this new instrument, and I got bolder over time.

     #2 is more adventurous, and is one of those tunes that I wrote in situ, that is, sitting on a hillside overlooking Lhasa during a brief visit to Tibet in 2005. In it I try to convey the spacious sky and landscape of this ancient land, as very, very long strings of prayer flags are lifted above me by the wind in graceful arches.

     The third, Suzhou Taxi, is the wildest and most chromatic of the set. Driving on Chinese roads is not something I recommend. Here is a white-knuckle depiction!

     #4 was written during a visit to a section of the Great Wall, called Mu Tian Yu. I had taken the effort to arrive early in the morning, and I had the Wall to myself! This entire melody was written while I sat in a guardhouse, trying to capture the vastness of this place and the feeling a soldier might have had while stationed here. The countryside is stunning and the Wall stretching across hilltops as far as the eye can see is beyond description. The music explores the upper register of this instrument which was so unfamiliar to me.

     A good player in Suzhou once performed it for me, and I thought it was quite dramatic. Some other erhu players who were nearby complained that it had no melody (meaning that it wasn't pentatonic) and that it was a pity it could not be played. They said this as I was thrilling to what I had just heard. I had no answer for them - music is a very subjective thing.

     Elegy (#5), is dedicated to the memory of Jim Odell, a good friend, fellow teacher, bon vivant, and quite probably an Enlightened Being. He died abruptly one day at his apartment in Hong Kong. His gentle humour and unfailing kindness are greatly missed.


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