Tài tử and Cải lương – differences and similarities

Saturday, November 09, 2019 4:20:55 PM

To clarify the similarities and the differences between tài tử and cải lương music, the overview of the formation and development process of these two types of music should be studied from the musical angle. 

TÀI TỬ MUSIC
Tài tử music originates from the pentatonic music in the South with sanctuary and solemn nature, performed in festivals or funerals. The pentatonic ceremonial orchestra is divided into two groups: văn (literature) group and võ (martial arts) group, involving five instrumentalists to play from five to six instruments.
Nhạc văn (literature music) entails playing the musical instruments: cò, cò chỉ, cò gáo tre, cò gáo dừa (different kinds of the cò two-stringed fiddles), trống nhạc (or trống bát cấu) (the drum), trống cơm (the small cylindrical drum), and performing the compositions: Nam xuân, Nam ai, Đảo ngũ cung, Xàng xê, Ngũ đối thượng, Ngũ đối hạ, Long đăng, Long ngâm, Vạn giá, Tiểu khúc, and Xuân nữ .
Nhạc võ (martial-art music) involves playing the musical instruments: trống đực (the male drum), trống cái (the female drum), chập bạt, đẩu or thanh la (the cymbals), mõ sừng, kèn trung, and bồng, and singing the compositions: Đánh thét, Bài lạy, Táng điệu, Táng thích, Đánh đàng, Đánh chập, Tiếp giá, etc.
In the middle of 1845-1850, văn group was divided into the new groups: the group of plucking instruments and the group of bowing stringed instruments . These groups had the common name đờn cây group, who performed chamber music. This formation arose from the music-knowledgeable audiences’ demand of enjoying music out of worship time.
Afterwards, this model was disseminated in many places and developed into the movement đờn cây. In this stage, to create attractiveness and competition ability of this group against other groups, musicians have gradually modified some Huế ancient music’s musical pieces , which supplemented the repertoire of đờn cây music.
Since 1875 on, đờn cây movement has spread in many Southern provinces and has become an elegant hobby of many high-ranked families. It can be organized in many places, including living rooms, the most formal places in a house, in gardens, on boats, at riversides, in parties, etc. Performers and appreciators have been more diversified than before, including nobilities, poets, literates, beauties, etc. To attract passionate audiences, singing has been alternated with instrument playing. Since that time, the songs with the narrative style and different contents have been composed from the inspiration source of traditional poems such as Kim Vân Kiều, Lục Vân Tiên, Tô Huệ chức cẩm hồi văn, etc. The roles of singers and instrumentalists were of the same importance; therefore, all of them sat on the same plank or mat for performance. Since that time, a new percussion instrument, sanh clappers, which were played by singers, has been created .
The performance style gradually got out of the solemnity of nhạc lễ ceremonial music; instead, it was soaked with sentiment and the color of chamber music. Performers were allowed to show off their deliberate and poised manner with all of their emotion and talent on the simple structure of skeletal melody as well as in tune and hơi (musical nuance). The professtionals, who played music as a living, and passionate amateur players were distinguished on the base of instrument-playing purposes (e.g. entertainment) and intrument-playing styles (e.g. elegant or refined). This distinction helped causing the appearance of the word tài tử (amateur talents). The music, performed by such people and having such characteristics, was called đờn ca tài tử (the performance of amateur talents). Afterwards, it was called with another more formal term âm nhạc tài tử (the music of amateur talents) or with a shorter term nhạc tài tử (the music of amateur talents).
Tài tử music has been developed widely in the South, especially in some typical places such as Bạc Liêu, Vĩnh Long, Sa Đéc, Vĩnh Kim, and Cái Thia in Mỹ Tho, Cần Đước in Long An, or Sài Gòn. These people were divided into two groups: Eastern amateur talents and Western amateur talents. The heads were Nguyễn Quang Đại or Ba Đợi (his nickname), living in Cần Đước, and Trần Quang Quờn or Ký Quờn (his nickname), living in Vĩnh Long. Both had significant contribution to composing new pieces of music and teaching and disseminating tài tử music with their own way. Accordingly, the number of musical pieces, especially renowned pieces, increased. These songs were performed longer, which were commensurate with old pieces.
Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the composers of tài tử music systematised musical issues academically. The orchestra was formed in accordance with tam hòa, tứ tuyệt, and ngũ
tuyệt . Especially, sanh clappers were innovated into the new instrument, called song lang . Musical pieces were selected in accordance with nuances and modal characteristics and classified into different groups. The following table of classification in time order has been widely applied.
- In 1900, the first classification table of Mr. Ba Đợi was called 20 bản tổ (20 principal musical pieces), including:
Table 1:

Names of piece groups

Repertoires

Sáu:

Bắc

Lưu thủy, Phú lục, Bình bán, Xuân tình, Tây Thi, and Cổ bản

Bảy:

Bài, etc. (tổ, lễ, nhạc, cò, lớn, bắc lớn, and bắc lễ)

Xàng xê, Ngũ đối thượng, Ngũ đối hạ, Long đăng, Long ngâm, Vạn giá, and Tiểu khúc

Ba:

Nam

Nam xuân, Nam ai, and Đảo ngũ cung (Nam đảo)

Bốn:

Oán

Tứ đại oán, Phụng hoàng, Giang Nam (Giang Nam cửu khúc), and Phụng cầu (Phụng cầu hoàng)

  This table was considered standard. It was explained that although many musical pieces were composed, they were not new in terms of structure as well as musical nuance and rhythms except for Vọng cổ.
These 20 principal musical pieces had different nuances: Bắc, Lễ (Nhạc, Hạ), Xuân, Ai, Đảo, and Oán . Particularly, sáu Bắc group included different melodies with three rhythm levels: tẩu mã (fast), đoản or vắn (moderate), and trường or chấn (slow) . There were three types of time: the duple time, the quadruple time, and the eight time. Each type included song lang time, which was beaten at the second time of the duple time, at the third and fourth times of the quadruple time, and at the sixth and eighth times of the eight time. The quadruple time was located in sáu Bắc, bảy Bài, and ba Nam. The eight time was played in bốn Oán. Furthermore, times were classified into two groups: strong time and weak time.
- A musical piece-classification table was later consolidated in 1945 by Nguyễn Văn Thinh or Giáo Thinh (his nick name), a renowned musician in Sài gòn. According to the assessment of the musician circle, this table was sophisticated; yet, it excluded the pieces of tài tử music in the West, which were called 72 bài bản cổ nhạc Nam phần (72 ancient Southern musical pieces).

Table 2:

Names of piece groups

Repertoires

36 bản Bắc

Lưu thủy, Phú lục, Bình bán, Cổ bản, Xuân tình, and Tây Thi 

7 bản Lễ

Xàng xê, Ngũ đối thượng, Ngũ đối hạ, Long đăng, Long ngâm, Vạn giá, and Tiểu khúc.

3 bản Nam

Nam xuân, Nam ai, and Đảo ngũ cung

6 bản Oán

Tứ đại oán, Phụng hoàng, Giang Nam, Phụng cầu, and Bình sa lạc nhạn, and Thanh dạ đề quyên

8 bản Ngự

Đường Thái Tôn, Vọng phu, Chiêu Quân, Ái tử kê, Bắc Man tấn cống, Tương tư, Duyên kỳ ngộ, and Quả phụ hàm oan.

10 bản Tàu
(Thập Thủ Liên Hườn)

Phẩm tuyết, Ngươn tiêu, Hồ Quảng, Liên hườn, Bình bản, Tây mai, Kim tiền, Xuân phong, Long hổ, and Tẩu mã.

1 bản

Bát bản

1 bản

Hội ngươn tiêu


- The legend has it that a classification table has been consolidated by Mr. Huỳnh Thúc Kháng, published on the newspaper Tiếng Dân of Huế in 1927. However, the source, the title, and the detail were questionable . In 1957, Mr. Lan Dương posed a question on Tin Điển newspaper of Sài Gòn, published on the 17th May. He wrote that there was a rumour that Mr. Huỳnh wrote an article about 10 kinds of repertoires of ancient Vietnamese music. That table has the content, presented below, according to his opinion.
Table 3:
Names of piece groups Originations
Nhứt: Lý The South and the Middle
Nhì: Ngâm The South, the Middle, and the North
Tam : Nam The South and the Middle
Tứ: Oán The South
Ngũ: Điếm The South
Lục: Xuất Kỳ Sơn The South and the Middle
Thất: Chánh The South
Bát : Ngự The South
Cửu : Nhĩ The South
Thập: Thủ "Liên Hườn" The Middle
Afterwards, Mr. Giáo Thinh, although he has not read that writing yet, has tried to analyse songs and summarised 10 ancient Vietnamese musical pieces as follows:

Table 4:

Names of musical
piece groups

Repertoires and their originations

Nhứt:

The South: Lý bốn mùa (Vọng phu), Lý giao duyên, Lý con sáo (tam thất), Lý ngựa ô Nam, Lý ngựa ô Bắc, and Lý Phước Kiến.

The Middle: Lý hoài xuân, Lý Giang nam, Lý Nam xang, Lý giao dươn, Lý tử vi, Lý huê tình, etc.      

Nhì:

Ngâm

The recitation of ancient styles of poems at three regions: five-word verse, seven-word-four-line verse, seven-word octave, seven-seven-six-eight-word verse, etc.

Tam:

Nam

The South: Nam xuân, Nam ai, and Đảo ngũ cung.

The Middle: Hạ Giang Nam (Nam xoan and Nam chiến), Vọng Giang Nam (Nam bình), Ai Giang Nam (Nam ai), etc.

Tứ:

Oán

The South: Tứ đại oán, Phụng hoàng, Giang Nam, Phụng cầu, Bình sa lạc nhạn, and Thanh dạ đề quyên.

Ngũ:

Điếm

The South: Lưu thủy, Phú lục, Bình bán, Cổ bản, Xuân tình, and Tây thi.

Lục:

Xuất Kỳ Sơn

The South and the Middle: Cổ bản vắn, Bình bản, Kim tiền, Xuân phong, Long hổ, and Tẩu mã

Thất:

Chính

The South: Xàng xê, Ngũ đối thượng, Ngũ đối hạ (bài hạ), Long đăng, Long ngâm, Vạn giá, and Tiểu khúc.

Bát:

Ngự

The South: Đường Thái Tôn, Vọng phu, Chiêu Quân, Ái tử kê, Bắc Man tấn cống, Tương tư, Duyên kỳ ngộ, and Quả phụ hàm oan.

Cửu:

Nhĩ

The South: Hội ngươn tiêu and Bát bản chấn.

Thập:

Thủ Liên Hườn

The Middle: Phẩm tuyết, Ngươn tiêu, Hồ Quảng, Liên hườn, Bình bản, Tây mai, Kim tiền, Xuân phong, Long hổ, and Tẩu mã.

- Since 1975, tài tử music has developed strongly on repertoire. Several new musical pieces have been composed, which integrated into the musical circle quickly. A noticeble effort was done in 1979 by Mr. Chín Tâm, a renowned tài tử musician in Hồ Chí Minh city. He modified the system of ten pieces by supplementing it with some other valuable pieces and excluding some similar pieces and some pieces from the Middle. This system was called 10 ancient Southern musical pieces.

Table 5:

Names of musical
piece groups

Repertoires

Nhứt:

Lý vọng phu, Lý giao duyên, Lý con sáo, Lý ngựa ô Nam, Lý ngựa ô Bắc, Lý Phước Kiến, Lý chuồn chuồn, and Lý thập tình.

Nhì:

Ngâm

The recitation of six-eight-word verse, four-line verse, seven-word verse, etc in accordance with Xuân and Ai melodies.

Tam:

Nam

Nam xuân, Nam ai, and Đảo ngũ cung.

Tứ:

Oán

Tứ đại oán, Phụng hoàng, Giang Nam, Phụng cầu, Bình sa lạc nhạn, Thanh dạ đề quyên, Ngươn tiêu hội oán, and Võ văn hội oán.

Ngũ:

Điếm

Lưu thủy, Phú lục, Bình bán, Cổ bản, Xuân tình, and Tây Thi (= 36 bản Bắc)

Lục:

Xuất

Văn Thiên Tường, Trường tương tư, Chinh phụ nam (Chinh phụ ly tình), Tứ đại vắn (Tứ đại cảnh Nam phần), Hội ngươn tiêu, and Bát bản chấn

Thất:

Chính

Xàng xê, Ngũ đối thượng, Ngũ đối hạ, Long đăng, Long ngâm, Vạn giá, and Tiểu khúc.

Bát:

Ngự

Đường Thái Tôn, Vọng phu, Chiêu Quân, Ái tử kê, Bắc Man tấn cống, Tương tư, Duyên kỳ ngộ, and Quả phụ hàm oan.

Cửu:

Nhĩ

Minh hoàng thưởng  nguyệt, Ngự giá đăng lâu, Phò mã giao duyên, Ái tử kê, Kim tiền bảng, Ngự giá, Hồ lan, Vạn liên, and Song phi hồ điệp

Thập:

Thủ "Liên Hườn"

Phẩm tuyết, Ngươn tiêu, Hồ Quảng, Liên hườn, Bình bản, Tây mai, Kim tiền, Xuân phong, Long hổ, and Tẩu mã.

 

The musical piece-classification table of Mr. Chín Tâm , although containing more sufficient repertoire of tài tử music (or the Southern ancient musical pieces in his opinion), lacks quite several pieces. Because he remarkably depended on the order and the number 10 of musical pieces in accordance with Mr. Huỳnh’s classification (such songs are called Vietnamese ancient music), there are two irrational issues. Firstly, although the Southern folk music has many lý songs, there are only eight lý songs in the above table. The recitation of three regions cannot be considered songs. Secondly, "nhứt lý" and "nhì ngâm" were harly performed in any tài tử performance in the past.
The number of tài tử repertoires significantly increases at present. In addition to the repertoires in table 5, several other repertoires have been welcomed by tài tử circle.

 Table 6:

Sources

Repertoires

Huế ancient music

Hành vân, Tứ đại cảnh, etc.

New compositions

Hoài lang (Dạ cổ hoài lang, the 2-and 4-bar phrases), Vọng cổ (the 8-and 16-bar phrases), Võ tắc biệt, Liêu giang, Ngũ quan, Tứ bửu Liêu thành, Ngũ châu Minh phổ, Nam âm ngũ khúc, Ngũ cung luân hoán, Ngũ đối hoàn cung, Khúc hận Nam Quan, Ngũ khúc Long phi, Hội huê đăng, Lục luật Tiêu hà, Đoản khúc Lam giang, Phi vân điệp khúc, Vọng Kim lang, etc.

Variations from repertoires of tài tử music

Xuân nữ, Xuân nữ Bạc Liêu, Chiết tứ vĩ, Phụng hoàng cải lương, Phụng hoàng lai Nghi, Khổng Tử khóc Nhan Hồi, Bắc ngự, Xuân tình bát oán, Quả phụ hàm oanHành vân xuân, Hành vân ai, Ngũ đối ai, Cổ bản ai, Tây Thi Quảng, etc.

- In 1997, through the paper at the 34th conference of the International Council for Traditional Music – ICTM, in Nitra Slovakia, we proposed a table of classifying Southern tài tử’s repertoires in accordance with the systems of bản Bắc và bản Nam .
Since 1990, tài tử music has been developed and remarkably influenced by cải lương music. Performers performed pieces in a shortening way, which meant that only some phrases were performed; same phrases were excluded; and different pieces were joined togerther into medley of pieces such as Liên Nam or Lưu-Bình-Kim. Some cải lương pieces such as Ngũ điểm, Bài tạ, Xang xừ líu, Sương chiều, or Tú Anh were accepted as long as meeting the recreation demand of "đờn ca tài tử" session. Tài tử music, in addition to mentioned hơi (musical nuance), included some other hơi: hơi dựng (in dựng phrase of Văn Thiên Tường), hơi ai-oán (in Vọng cổ), and hơi Quảng (in the original pieces Quảng Đông and Triều Châu).
The boundary between tài tử and cải lương music is currently equated. Even on the means of mass communication and musical competitions, đờn ca tài tử clubs officially use the term tài tử - cải lương music, which causes more and more people not to distinguish these two musical types. Thus, the performance style of tài tử music is not as pure as before.
The most ideal orchestra involves playing five musical instruments, which is called ngũ tuyệt, including the tranh sixteen-string zither, the kìm two-string moon-shaped lute, the cò two-chord fiddle, the tiêu flute, and the bầu monochord. The most popular orchestra includes the tranh sixteen-string zither, the cò two-stringed fiddle, the kìm two-stringed moon-shaped lute (or the sến lute), and the guitar. However, the bầu monochord, the cò two-stringed fiddle, the kìm two-stringed moon-shaped lute, and the sến lute are gradually less present in tài tử orchestras because few people can play them.
CẢI LƯƠNG MUSIC

 Since the 10th year of the twentieth century, in addition to the traditional performance style, the performance space of tài tử music has changed from private houses to public places. At first, there were the initiatives of performing tài tử music to serve customers at restaurants and then performing it on planks at cinemas. Next initiative was standing on performance planks to perform simple illustrative movements, called ca ra bộ. This new singing style was then developed into hát chập and hát lớp, which afterwards marked the birth of cải lương art from 1917 to 1918.
Cải lương music has been formed and developed from two sources: traditional music and innovated music. At first, traditional music was tài tử music. However, with the criterion of serving the public, tài tử pieces in cải lương music were shortened or combined with other pieces. Later, folk songs (most are Southern folk songs), Quảng music (the music from Quảng Đông and Triều Châu music, which were domesticated), and new compositions with cải lương style have been written. Modified music played the role of expressing atmosphere and climaxes, including welcoming music, act-changing music, dancing music, background music, and the compound musical style "tân cổ giao duyên" (the integration of traditional and modern music). There are two kinds of music, mentioned above. However, cải lương music is more considered as traditional music because the characteristics of traditional music are prominent in this art.
Initially, the basic traditional orchestra included five instruments (ngũ tuyệt), similar to tài tử orchestra. Afterwards, the cò two-stringed fiddle and gáo fiddle replace with the violin. The sến lute takes the place of the kìm two-stringed moon-shape lute. Especially, the guitar with sunken frets is the supplement to the orchestra and plays the main role in the orchestra. As a matter of fact, the orchestra is arranged to sit in front of the stage to observe the performance of actors and actresses.
Initially, there were only 20 principal musical pieces of tài tử music, among which Tứ đại oán was considered as the principle piece and there were few original Huế traditional musical pieces such as Hành vân or Kim tiền. Furthermore, there were other popular styles: literary criticism of Kiều poems, recitation, nói lối, and lý folk-song singing. Soon afterwards Dạ cổ hoài lang and Vọng cổ take the place of Tứ đại oán.
The development of cải lương repertoire is associated with the trend of play composition. In the stage of cải lương with its contents, taken from Chinese stories, many songs orignated from hí khúc Quảng Đông - Triều Châu music such as Ngũ điểm, Bài tạ, Xang xừ líu, or Xái phỉ. Tiên, Phật, and Tây plays involved performing the songs with Western melodies such as J'ai deux amours, Marinella, and C'est pour mon papa. There were also some new compositions such as Hoài tình, Hòa duyên, or Con ong nho nhỏ. Some lý folk songs were performed following cải lương style, e.g. lý con sáo, lý ngựa ô, or lý chuồn chuồn. In addition, several cải lương plays with the contents of Chinese swashbuckling stories such as Giang Tô, Phong nguyệt, Sương chiều, or Tú Anh were written by Mộng Vân. Next was the birth of innovated cải lương, influenced by the drama style, including cải lương plays about historical folk stories, society, and war such as Mẫu đơn, Thuấn hoa, Vọng các hòa ca, or Song phụng triều vương. Moving to the stage "hương xa", influenced by foreign films such as Mongolia, Japan, India, Egypt, or Rome, and the stage "thi ca vũ nhạc diễm huyền", several new songs were composed such as Lưu thủy hành vân, Sâm thương, or Trăng thu dạ khúc. All of such songs were called bản vắn (short pieces). In these stages, many kinds of plays, in which recitation and music were supplemented, have appeared. After 1975, the trend of composing plays about realistic society entailed the appearance of many lý Southern songs such as lý đất giồng, lý cái mơn, lý đương đệm, or lý kéo chài. Phạm Lý utilized folk melodies and cải lương music to compose new songs, e.g. lý qua cầu, lý trăng soi, lý Mỹ Hưng, lý mù sương, etc.
Although the number of cải lương repertoires is innumberable, only few some bản Bắc, Nam, Oán, bản vắn, lý, new compositions, and Vọng cổ with its rhythmic structure of 32-bar phrases are presently performed.
CẢI LƯƠNG REPERTOIRE
(Kiều Tấn’s collection in accordance with the alphabetic order, 1997)
Table 7:

Order

Names of song
groups / sources

Repertoires

1

Tài tử / tài tử 
             music

All types of tài tử pieces

2

Bản vắn / Huế traditional music, Quảng Đông – Triều Châu music, and new compositions

Ánh nắng, Ánh trăng, Bá hoa, Bài tạ, Bài Tiều, Bán nguyệt, Bắc sơn trà, Cao phi, Chi hoa trường hận, Chiến sĩ tùng chinh, Con ong nho nhỏ, Cung thềm, Dạ khúc, Dưới trăng mờ, Đăng sơn lãm thủy, Độc bản, Đông mai, Giang Tô điểu ngữ, Gió hờn, Hàn giang, Hành vân, Hận tình, Hận trường ly oán, Hòa duyên, Hoài cầu, Hoài nam khúc, Hoài tình, Hướng mã hồi thành, Khốc hoàng thiên, Khổng Minh tọa lầu, Khúc ca hoa chúc, Kiều nương, Kim tiền Huế, La hồ, Lạc âm thiều, Lạc xuân hoa, Lệ rơi thấm đá, Liễu Thuận Nương, Long hổ hội, Long nguyệt (Lộng nguyệt), Lưỡng long tranh châu, Lưu thủy cao san, Mạnh Lệ Quân, Mẫu đơn, Mẫu tầm tử, Miên hậu hồi cung, Minh châu, Nặng tình xưa, Ngũ điểm, Nhạn về, Nhị độ mai, Phi điểu, Phong ba đình, Phong nguyệt, Phước Châu, Quý Phi túy tửu, Sâm thương, Song phụng triều vương, Sơn Đông hướng mã, Sương chiều, Tam pháp nhập môn, Tân xái phỉ,Thu cúc, Thu hồ, Thu hồ điệp lạc, Thu phong (Bá điểu), Thủ phong nguyệt, Thuấn hoa, Tiên nữ hái hoa, Tô Vũ mục dương (Tô Võ), Tống phong, Từ bá tuấn, Tử quy từ, Trạng ngươn hành lộ, Trăng thu dạ khúc, Trung thu, Tú Anh, Tùng lâm dạ lãm, Ú liu ú xáng (Thiên bất túc), Uyên ương hội vũ, Vạn huê trường hận, Vọng các hòa ca, Võ Biền xuất đội, Xang xừ líu, etc.

3

Lý / Southern
       folk songs

 

 

Lý: Ba Tri, Bình vôi, Cái mơn, Cây bông, Chia tay, Chiều chiều, Chim quyên, Chuồn chuồn, Con khỉ, Con sáo, Con sáo Gò Công, Đất giồng, Đương đệm, Giao duyên, Kéo chài, Lu là, Ngựa ô Bắc, Ngựa ô Nam, Phước Kiến, Nhập tình, Vọng phu, etc.

4

"" / new
     compositions

Lý: Chim xanh, Đêm trăng, Mù sương (Tòng quân), Mỹ Hưng, Năm Căn (Minh Hải), Qua cầu, Trăng soi, Son sắt (Son sắt một lòng), Tư Phùng, etc.

In addition to the duple time, the quadruple time, the eight time, the simple time is used to signal song lang in every first time in cải lương music. The sixteen time and the thirty-two time are only used in Vọng cổ repertoires. The melodies in this art are similar to tài tử music; in addition, Quảng nuance are the supplements in this art. Although cải lương repertoire is diversified and innumerable, the performance length is short and only phrases are performed. Moreover, depending on the content, the character’s personality, and rhythm, singers have to make appropriate responses such as increasing or decreasing speed, converting tempo, rhythm, and dialogues, etc. which entails instrumentalists to improvise their accompaniment.
Looking at the process of tài tử and cải lương formation and development, some similarities and differences are summarised in the following table.

Table 8:
.

Similarities/Differences

Tài tử music

Cải lương music

Purposes and roles:

Entertainment. Singers and instrumentalists play the equivalent role

Performance on stage. The orchestra plays the role of assisting singing and acting.

Performance forms:

Chamber music. It can be performed in any place.

Stage music. It is performed on stage.

Musical contents:

 

- Scale and mode

 

 

- Hơi (musical nuance)

 

 

 - Time

 

 

- Tempo

 

 

 

- Repertoires

 

 

 - Lyrics

 

 

 

 - Performance styles

 

 

 

 

 

- Musical characteristics

 

 

 

 

 

Bắc, Xuân, Ai, Oán, and variations

 

Bắc, Lễ, Xuân, Ai, Đảo, Oán, Ai Oán, Ngự, and Dựng.

 

The duple, quadruple, eight, and sixteen times.

 


Slow or moderate, stable and standard.

 

 

Limited, mainly from 20 principal pieces, long performance time. Songs are divided into phrases.

 

Basing on traditional poems; dignifying piety, loyalty, and heroism. Lyrics are narrative.

 

Accompaniment is performed first, followed by singing with austere and deliberate styles for music lovers.

 

Respecting musical characteristics (melodies, nuance, mode, rhythms, time, singing styles, instrument strings, etc.). Lyrics have few words, yet with profound meaning. Music is refined, subtle; thus, audiences should enjoy music with ears instead of eyes.

 

 

Bắc, Xuân, Ai, Oán, and variations 24.

 

Bắc, Lễ, Xuân, Ai, Đảo, Oán, Ai Oán, Ngự, Dựng, and Quảng.

 

The simple, duple, quadruple, eight, sixteen, and thirty-two times.

 

Slow, moderate, fast, and improvision in accordance with singing and acting.

 

Many sources, diversified, short performance time. It can be an extract or it can be combined with other songs.

 

Diversified topics. Lyrics have the characteristics of action and conflicts.

 

 

Singing is performed first, followed by the accompaniment with flexibility and improvisation.

 

Lacking the respect of music contents. Lyrics have many words. Performers do not pay much attention to polishing singing and instrument playing. Music is not very subtle and refined. Artists try to attract audiences by watching instead of listening.

 

Orchestra

Trio, quartet, quintet ensemles among which the kìm two-stringed moon-shaped lute plays the roles of conducting the orchestra and keeping song lang time.

The guitar plays the roles of conducting the orchestra and keeping time in the orchestras of trio, quartet, quintet ensemles.

 

Orchestra Trio, quartet, quintet ensemles among which the kìm two-stringed moon-shaped lute plays the roles of conducting the orchestra and keeping song lang time. The guitar plays the roles of conducting the orchestra and keeping time in the orchestras of trio, quartet, quintet ensemles.

Although there are the similarities and the differences in the above table, the differences are nearly trivial if the recent trend of “tài tử - cải lương” is accepted. The only obvious difference between present tài tử and cải lương music is, in our opinion, performance space.
Indeed, in chamber space, thanks to comfortable feeling, tài tử artists can perform wholeheartedly; thus, they can sing and play instruments improvisatorily and creatively, which helps them to show off all of their talents along with their partners and perform songs with deliberate and poised styles. In the meantime, in stage space, cải lương artists are restricted in the frame of rhythms and acting; thus, instrument playing lacks refinement and inspiration transmission and it is always put in the passive position. Because of being performed in different spaces and with different musical purposes, they possess different musical characteristics, although the performed musical pieces are same. Accordingly, a piece of music, performed in a concert, or a song, performed solo, is called "đờn ca tài tử" while it is called “cải lương music” if they are performed on stage. As such, the appearance of the dual concept "tài tử music - cải lương music" is reasonable.
Hopefully, this writing can help us to have a lucid orientation in preserving and promoting the valuable values of traditional music. Thereby, the appropriate approaches of learning, teaching, performing, and disseminating this special musical art can be proprosed in order to raise it to a new level: modern, but still traditional.

Sài Gòn, November 2010

 

 

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