Its our final day in Boading and today we planned to record serval instruments at Hebei University. Our prior arrangement with Dean of the Institute thankfully gave us access to the instruments plus a studio space to record them in. The instruments consisted of: Er Hu, serval different types of Gu Zheng’s and a Bianzhong.
Today was going to be a long day, although we didn’t have to face the usual difficulties of keeping the sound around us quiet we did have to work with students making a racket outside and university bells going off regularly.
Sampling is a long process that requires patience and a great ear, lucky we had a team that have both. However, the musicians we wished to record had with limited time. Both Chen Mingyuan and Qin Sixiang were only available the first part of the day.
With Chen Mingayuan we managed to capture the Er Hu in many ways that would be suitable for GSM, however the time was running short for Qin Sixiang on the Gu Zheng. She managed to play all of the complicated arrangements then her time was up, she had class to go to. This posed a problem as we still required further playing of the Gu Zheng. Phil Bush stepped up and after a long and painful (pushing down on the string for this length of time was making the tips of his finger numb) recording we managed to capture all the aspects required form this instrument.
Now the final instrument, the Bianzhong. None of us had ever seen one of these and this had great presence and as it consisted of a large number of cast iron bells. Five along the top, six through the centre bigger than the top row, then four very large bells along the bottom row hanging from a wooden frame. The Bainzhong dates back between 2,000 – 3,600 years old. Several sets of bianzhong were imported to the Korean court during the Song Dynasty. Pronounced in Korean as ‘pyeonjong’, the instrument became an important part in Korea’s ritual and court music, this is still in use today.
Sadly we didn’t have a musician to play the Bianzhong, therefore the team took it in turns to strike the bells at various velocities. This has enabled us to produce a sample pack for this incredible instrument.