Chinese Instruments and Music explores the ancient, delicate integration of music and art with other aspects of Chinese daily life. The history of China is interwoven with the development of music. As far back as the Chou dynasty (1122 to 256 B.C.) there was an Imperial Minister of Music. This film begins with Chinese of all ages at the Great Wall practicing Tai Chi at sunrise. As daylight grows we see people in a park at Hangchow communing with nature as they study birds in cages.
Almost as old as the Great Wall is the Gu-Qin, a box zither which we see being played by an elderly master. The video then takes us to musical instrument factories: master musicians play examples of instrumental music, some on steel wires, some on silk strings, and some on reed instruments. The traditional techniques of silk and wire manufacture are examined. The film ends with lyrical nature scenes to the accompaniment of Two Springs Reflect the Moon, a tranquil composition for stringed instruments.
These films include some fascinating general footage, always with traditional music as background, as well as some valuable and sometimes extended scenes of genuine ceremonies and events.
People throughout Madagascar maintain a strong reverential connection to their ancestors, whose spirits may be called upon to enter into the present to resolve problems and to heal illness. Music performance provides a vital means of communicating with these ancestral spirits, thus of evoking the past and the power emergent in it. This project results from intensive ethnographic research that Ron Emoff performed on the east coast of Madagascar from 1993 through 1995. Dr. Emoff's fieldwork focused upon connections between musical performance, spirit possession, ways of recollecting the past, constructions of power, and perceptions of the colonial era in Madagascar.