Review of the Book “Morphology of Chinese Folk Music”


“Ethnomusicological morphology” is a discipline that studies the external form and internal structure of Chinese ethnomological music, as well as its movement and change law and performance function. It belongs to the basic theory of ethnomological music. The morphology of Chinese Folk music edited by Liu Zhengwei conducts theoretical research on the morphology of Chinese traditional music through special writing methods and methods, which contributes an important force to the study of Chinese folk music. This article will be from the book creation background, book content and structure, book characteristics, book advantages and disadvantages of four aspects of relevant comments.

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Wang, D.D. (2021) Review of the Book “Morphology of Chinese Folk Music”. Open Access Library Journal, 8, 1-7. doi: 10.4236/oalib.1107757.

1. Introduction

Ethnomusicology, as one of the important subjects in music and dance, is also known as musical anthropology. More emphasis is placed on theory and method. The discipline is characterized by its emphasis on field work, interdisciplinary research, writing of music ethnography, and the use of music as a cultural study. Ultimately, it’s about cultivating how people observe and understand all the music in the world. This discipline emphasizes the analysis of music noumenon, the mastery of music behavior and the interpretation of music culture, but it still needs to adopt appropriate research methods according to the problems. Liu Zhengwei’s “Morphology of Chinese National Music” is the author’s own “field” practice, study, research and teaching of some of the experience, especially on the traditional music of China’s folk music shape research, and mainly belongs to the social attributes with Chinese characteristics of music morphology theory research.

This book mainly studies the content and characteristics of music morphology. It provides a special method for the study of ethnomusicology, and also accumulates important materials and content for the related research of ethnomusicology in China. Therefore, I choose this book to review the content of the book from the author and creation background. The content and structure of the book, the characteristics of the book, the advantages and disadvantages of the book are analyzed. The article is divided into seven parts.

2. Book Author and Background

“Morphology of Chinese Folk Music” is written by Liu Zhengwei and published by Southwest Normal University Press in 2007. Liu Zhengwei, born in Xiangyin, Hunan province, is a music theorist, educator and professor of Wuhan Conservatory of Music [1] . He graduated from the Composition Department of Central South Music Program in 1956 and has been engaged in the teaching, creation and theoretical research of folk music for a long time. He has been engaged in the teaching, creation and theoretical research of folk music for more than 40 years, especially since the 1980s, and has made great achievements. His theoretical research is very extensive, mainly involving the morphology of folk music, the history and classification of opera tone, composition technology, etc. [2] . Liu Zhengwei has written “The nationality of Chinese opera music form”, “A new theory on the classification of opera tune”, “The mode system and mode distribution of folk music”, “The ‘eye’ of Opera Composition” and other articles, which have far-reaching influence. It is because of his early experience of learning composition that his theoretical research is mostly based on music form (Theory of Music Technology); meanwhile, the perceptual knowledge gained from his practice in folk groups for many years makes him rich in folk music, which makes him meaningful in theoretical research and full of personality and originality [3] .

From the perspective of Liu Zhengwei’s personal experience and research direction, it is not difficult to find that it is his deep feelings for opera research and his rich experience in integrating theory with practice that lead him to have a lot of interest and experience in opera research “Morphology of Chinese folk music” In the writing of a book, “Morphology of Chinese folk music” A book is rich in material, examples and emotions. It is because of his full accumulation of music related majors and practice that the book has made great contributions to the study of ethnomusicology, and further deepened the public’s attention to the level of music morphology. This research direction is a new direction [4] . For the study of ethnomusicology, it pays more attention to the study of music noumenon, The research of music ontology also provides fresh data and rich content for the research of ethnomusicology.

In fact, since the beginning of this century, with the gradual formation of the world’s multi-cultural pattern, China’s musicology has also begun to recognize and reflect on the national music culture. More and more music theorists and composers have set out from their respective academic positions or expounded their own ideas and ideas for the revival of Chinese national music, or create music with distinctive national characteristics and the characteristics of the times. Among them are teachers Du Yaxiong, Wu Guodong and Ju Qihong, who are familiar to us, as well as a large number of young generation ethnomusicologists who have sprung up since the beginning of this century, However, Liu Zhengwei, who put forward the special viewpoint of ethnomusicology morphology, brings us a different level of exploration. The essence is to discuss the mother tongue of music, from the most essential elements of music, from performance, performance, score, tune and other angles, which fully shows Liu Zhengwei’s exploration of ethnomusicology itself. It also opens up a way of theoretical guidance for intangible cultural heritage protection of Chinese traditional music.

3. Book Content and Structure

“Morphology of Chinese folk music” Starting from the characteristics of national music itself, the book discusses the concept and spread scope of national music, explains what the morphology of national music is, closely combines the specific connotation of national music with plate distribution, and clearly explains the regional distribution characteristics of national music for readers in space, with clear logic and abundant content, It is not only a good reading material for Ethnomusicology researchers to learn, but also a good material for music professional knowledge promotion [5] .

By observing the layout of the article, we can see that the whole book is divided into nine chapters, namely: Chapter I overview, Chapter II genetic genes of national music, Chapter III melody form and plate distribution of national music, Chapter IV mode, tonality and plate distribution of national music, Chapter V cavity form and plate distribution of national music, Chapter III melody form and plate distribution of national music, Chapter IV mode, tonality and plate distribution of national music The sixth chapter is the structural characteristics and plate distribution of national music, the seventh chapter is the coverage and plate distribution of four Han songs, the eighth chapter is the analysis of the form of some music creation in Chinese opera, and the ninth chapter is the analysis of three national instrumental music [6] .

From the catalogue, we can clearly see that the research and expression of folk music itself is the first key content to be elaborated in this book. The next step is to combine the melody form, mode and tonality, cavity form, structural characteristics and plate distribution of folk music itself, which forms a very good reading idea and strong logic for readers, combining music itself with plate distribution, we have formed a very comprehensive understanding. Starting from the seventh chapter, we will analyze the specific folk songs, operas and national instrumental music to further provide evidence for the author’s related discussion, and also let us see a more detailed content analysis. Through in-depth analysis of the relevant morphological characteristics of music itself, we can further add points to the argumentation ideas of this book, let readers form a complete idea of the analysis of national music morphology [7] .

To sum up, we can understand that for the writing of this article, Mr. Liu Zhengwei is pushing forward step by step. As I read, I found that the music score of the later chapters of the article is longer and longer, and the notes and analysis of the music examples are longer and longer. For the richness of the content, the content of the later chapters can be said to be more in-depth, for the logical reasoning, more and more behind the book, also got more and more development.

4. Book Features

1) The logic is clear and the problem consciousness is obvious

The writing intention of this book is clear: “through the study and research of the morphology of national music, we can enhance the concrete and rational understanding of our national music, promote the inheritance and development of national music, and make it play its due influence in the world.” The author also thinks that we need to rely on our own efforts to summarize our national music theory from the practice of national music and interpret our national music reality.

Therefore, reading this book gives me the biggest intuitive experience, in addition to the clear logic of the book itself, and the author’s attention to the problem consciousness. As the research object of folk music is a content of consciousness, the author uses practical examples to land the research goal. What is the problem of folk music morphology itself? Why? How to develop? These problems have been clearly explained, and teacher Liu Zhengwei not only focuses on the folk music itself, but also combines a series of natural factors such as topography, plate distribution, north-south distribution and so on to make a correlation analysis, which provides us with a method reference for the study of folk music, and also provides us with thinking about what we can do for the study of folk music.

To sum up, clear writing logic of the article brings about an orderly analysis of the title of the article, and the characteristics of problem consciousness throughout the whole text can give us a further understanding of the morphology of national music, and form a new round of application of the morphology of national music in the actual practice later. After all, the ultimate role of music is itself. The reasonable analysis of music is also a way for us to further understand the role of music.

2) Clear music examples and profound music analysis

This book is clear about the basic elements of folk music, With the help of many music examples, together with the CD-ROM attached to the book and the audio attached to the class, I can clearly feel that Mr. Liu Zhengwei’s explanation of the concept in class is very clear, and almost every knowledge explanation will be accompanied by the analysis of music examples, which is very detailed, And with the development of logic, the length of genealogical examples is growing. In the aspect of content analysis, we usually use large paragraphs of explanatory text, so that the expression of the concept has a deeper understanding.

Especially in the seventh chapter, the analysis of folk songs, operas and national instrumental music will make people have a more obvious intuitive feeling. There is not only the comparison between plate music, but also the circle of key sections. The annotation of these details will bring more intuitive experience and clearer understanding to the explorers of ethnomusicology. Because most of the examples given by Liu Zhengwei are opera songs, most of the related music examples are extracted by the teacher himself, which is more authentic and traditional for music.

To sum up, it can be seen that the quotation of musical notation can be found everywhere in the book. However, the annotation of musical notation in this book is particularly detailed. It is not only to write opinions and suggestions around the musical notation, but also to give examples and comparisons in key sections. Moreover, it is also helpful to further describe the author’s analysis results of the music materials below the musical notation. This is also a good method for us to study ethnomusicology, which can be adopted and applied in thesis writing.

3) The viewpoint is novel and the analysis angle is unique

“Morphology of Chinese folk music” This book has a unique topic, especially a brand-new development of ethnomusicology and Chinese traditional music research. In the previous research on Chinese folk music, I also saw many people’s views on it “Morphology of Chinese folk music” This topic also expressed a unique opinion, but the analysis of the morphology of music itself is really very few, which indeed opened up a new way of understanding. For example, in the second chapter of the genetic gene of folk music, teacher Liu Zhengwei called the material related to folk music “genetic gene”. According to the actual situation of development, it is divided into “five states”, “four paths” and “three lines”. This not only distinguishes the different development of folk music from the geographical location, but also distinguishes the characteristics and characteristics of different regions. This book also borrows the form of plate distribution and combines the development of music with it. It can not only classify the characteristics of music in an orderly way, but also distinguish the characteristics of music in combination with natural development factors.

In this book, Mr. Liu Zhengwei is also very interested in the selection of materials. In addition to listing the representative local operas, he combines the characteristics of regional development and timely adopts fresh elements, so that readers cannot lag behind the times, but also fully accept the tradition. In the book, the author gives an example of the different performance effects of a classic Aria “Jasmine” in different regions and the music effects produced in different times. Through audio playback, the author makes readers feel the different audio and video in listening. The examples are not only old tapes, but also many modern classic newly edited examples. All of these are helpful for us to better understand the expression of jasmine in different regions and for us to learn opera better. The view also makes us have a more grounded desire for music cognition, which has a good guiding significance for us to learn ethnomusicology and understand the morphological characteristics of traditional music itself.

5. Advantages and Disadvantages of Books

“Morphology of Chinese folk music” The book is a clear stream in the study of ethnomusicology, because it is a very small number of articles on the nature of music, focusing on the analysis of modes, tonality, tunes and other specific musical aspects, It can provide a methodological reference for the analysis and research of ethnomusicology. Second, I think this book introduces the music characteristics of different parts of China in detail, which can bring people comprehensive and rational intuitive feelings. It is a rare study content of ethnomusicology. Thirdly, the book is moderate in length and novel in viewpoint, which can adapt to the development of new research methods of ethnomusicology.

Of course, in addition to the rare important advantages, there are still some small shortcomings in the compilation of books. I think the selection of repertoire is not novel enough. According to my feelings after listening to the class, for some repertoires, listening alone cannot directly coincide with the point of view to be introduced; Secondly, the writing objects of this book are mainly national music and folk vocal music, so they are not difficult to fully represent Chinese national music, and the analysis methods of different kinds of music are also different, while the analysis methods of different kinds of music are almost similar, and the degree of differentiation is not high enough; Third, this book is only the author’s experience of “field” practice, study, research and teaching, so most of them represent personal views, which can provide important direction guidance for our research on ethnomusicology, but its scientific basis needs to be verified. It can only be said that there are ideas and methods that can be used for reference, and we should also use them selectively when giving examples.

But the interpretation of the advantages and disadvantages is still my own personal interpretation. I think Mr. Liu Zhengwei is very enthusiastic and affectionate about the writing of national music morphology articles. He applies his interpretation of music and his life-long accumulation to the writing of articles. This attitude makes us admire and is very worthy of learning. This can be used for reference for our further study of ethnomusicology.

6. Conclusion

The “morphology of national music” in China has gradually developed its own direction, but this work cannot be completed by one or two people, nor can it be summed up in a day or two. Liu Zhengwei’s “Morphology of Chinese folk music” makes a detailed exploration of his own ways and methods of folk music morphology, which provides us with a favorable way to understand and understand folk music morphology. We can feel the colorful Chinese folk music from its rich and colorful practical examples. The beautiful music needs us to explore carefully and summarize in a more scientific way. Only in this way can we make great strides forward in our national music and let the world music feel the excellent charm of Chinese national music. Based on the analysis of the structure of the content of the article, combined with my own actual feelings and reading according to the relevant materials, this review finds that it has an intuitive role in enriching the research methods of ethnomusicology, can also provide reference for the study of ethnomusicology, and can fill in the shortcomings of the current review of ethnomusicology research methods. As Mr. Liu Zhengwei put it: I think the road is always “walking” out. This sentence still inspires our experts and scholars who study ethnomusicology not to be afraid of hardship and fatigue, to go forward in a down-to-earth way, to continue to guide practice with theory, to spread the passion of our predecessors with scientific leading methods, and to expand the research of ethnomusicology. It’s really possible for the world culture.

Conflicts of Interest

The author declares no conflicts of interest.


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[3] Huang, Z. (2013) Paying Close Attention to the Central South Relationship—An Interview with Professor Liu Zhengwei. Journal of Wuhan Conservatory of Music, No. 4, 283-284.
[4] Pu, H.J. (2012) Liu Zhengwei’s Comment on “Three Ups and Three Downs” of Chinese Folk Music Development. Chinese Music, No. 1, 154-155+166.
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[7] Huang, Z. (2002) Review on Liu Zheng-wei’s New Commentary of the Ethnomusicology. Journal of Wuhan Conservatory of Music, No. 3, 116-118.

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