Chinese Impressions
Theme and Variations for Erhu and Gu Zheng (2003)
by Ron Hannah

Duration: about 7 minutes

    Shortly after arriving in China in 2003 to teach English, I came into contact with local musicians and discovered that pentatonic music, despite being limited to 5 tones, can still be rich and varied. I also discovered that Chinese musicians are quite willing to step outside of the strict pentatonic scheme and introduce foreign

notes from time to time.

    I had already written a couple of melodies for the erhu (a 2-stringed violin), and when I met a guzheng mistress (a guzheng is a kind of Chinese koto) and was given a demonstration of that instrument, my imagination was fired. The result was this extended set of variations depicting my initial bewilderment with this busy place, and growing sense of the industry and ambition of the Chinese people. They are already through sheer numbers, a major force in the modern world, and if they ever get themselves organized and unified (a big if), they will be the next superpower indeed. I worry however that they are adopting some of the worst habits of the West, such as smoking and the acquisitive lifestyle with all its pressures, and my Variations include a Prayer for the People, and sections entitled The Energy of the People and Blending of Cultures, among others.

    It was given its premiere performance by George Gao, erhu, and Calla Tan in early 2005 at the Royal Ontario Museum. It was part of a series called New Music in New Places, and the MP3 recording has a lot of background noise, but it is still a good performance. It is running in the background, so turn up your sound.

Chinese performers in China have looked at it and find it a little odd, I think, especially those who are very traditional. It is a blend of East and West, and I did not try to be a Chinese composer - I lack the background.

    You are welcome to download it, free of charge, provided only that you inform me of any performances so that I can keep this website up-to-date.