Folk Music Assignment

Essay by thegreatalifagHigh School, 10th gradeA+, June 2007

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LyricsJasmine ()MandarinEnglishBeautiful Jasmine Blossom,Beautiful Jasmine Bloom,Jasmine scent smells betterthan other kindsI want to pluck one to wear,but I am worried that I might get caught.

Beautiful Jasmine Blossom,Beautiful Jasmine Bloom,The flower’s white glazeexcels the very bright white snow.

I want to pluck one to wear,but others may think that I am dumb.

Beautiful Jasmine Blossom.

Beautiful Jasmine Bloom. Jasmine,Best flower in thewhole wide world.

I want to pluck one to wear,but I am sure Jasmine will not bloom.

I want to pluck one to wear,but I am sure Jasmine will not bloom.

What is your song about?This simple short and simple song describes a young girl in love with jasmine flowers but is bound by rules of the society. However, she can still find happiness within the “beautiful jasmine blossoms. verses begin with praise for flower (appearance, scent, colour, etc.), and end with a negative answer. The negative answers involve society frowning upon the opinionated actions of this young girl.

Why is this song important?This song is important to the Chinese society because it represents the Mandarin culture very well. In 1982, this song was used as a symbol for China for the United Nations. In 1997 this song was used for the ceremony involving Hong Kong being placed back under Chinese control. Finally, this song was sent to outer space as a signal in search for extra-terrestrial life.

How is this song performed?The song is performed all around china, by different artists as well as regular people. It involves one female voice, as well as a few instrumentalists. Usually, there are only three instrumentalists providing the musical support. In most ceremonies, the instrumentalists would not be seen because the focus is supposed to be on the soloist. In addition, recording of the accompaniment may be used.

Comment on the elements of music in this song.

The form of this song is strophic, with 8 bar groupings. All the verses have the same melody but the words change. The melody of this piece is mostly conjunct – the notes move up and down in a stepwise manner. There are repetitions and it is singable. The harmony of the piece is major and consonant. In rhythmic terms, this piece is in 2/4 time, which is duple. The tempo is Moderato, and the notes are mostly 8th and 16th. The texture is homophonic, because there the soloist is being supported by the chordal accompaniment of the instrumentalists. Timbre is outlined in detail in the next few questions.

Discuss whether the song is ensemble-based, a solo, or a combination.

This song is a solo. The reason behind this is because this song is based on one young lady, and therefore, the most effective way to outline that would be through one female singer.

Is there improvisation on the melody or elsewhere in the music?I would say that in Chinese music, there isn’t much improvisation. This song is not an exception. I am pretty sure that this song is passed down by word of mouth, and the sheet music I have attached was most likely written from listening to the song. However, I have noticed that there are a few differences between the performance and the sheet music. On the longer notes, the singer alters the pitch, and in other places, she alters the length of the note.

Describe the quality of the singing voice.

The singing voice is very good, mostly because only the good voices get published. I am pretty sure that we can find a lot of mediocre singers “attempting” to sing this song as well. As for this recording, the singer’s pitch is good, the rhythm is good and the quality of the voice is good as well. It makes this song a pleasure to listen to.

Are instruments used? If so, what are they?How do the instrumental parts support the music?This song is in A flat major, however this being a Chinese song, it frankly doesn’t matter because it’s a pentatonic scale, and as long as the sub-dominant and the leading note aren’t present, you can start on any note and this song would still sound the same. There’s instrumental bridges starting and separating all the verses. As soon as you hear this you know this is Chinese, because it sounds as if the person is playing all the black notes on a piano. The instrumental parts also accompany the singer throughout the verses. The accompaniment stays the same through all 3 verses. There’s a rit./fermata at the end of the piece, however it is not marked in the music.

Extra Information (Checklist)Q = QuestionOrigin of song: ChinaMethod of communication of the song: Through singing, and then hearingNotation of the song: Past – not written down, Present – People have noted it onto sheet musicMeaning of the song: (Q1)Importance of the song: (Q2)Significance and function in a historical and cultural text: (Q2)Identify the musical elements of the song: (Q4)Artistic decisions you have made about the performance: (Q3, Q5, Q9)How is the song performed: (Q3)Improvisations: (Q6)Classification according to song type: Chinese peasant folk songEnsemble-based of solo: SoloIs this typical of most folk songs from that country: Yes, this song is similar to other folk songs due to the pentatonic scales and free-rolling melody. The subject of girls held by society is common as well.

Quality of the singing voice: (Q7)How do the instrumental parts support the music: (Q8, 9)Similarities and differences to folk music studied in class: In class, we didn’t hear a Chinese folk song. However, in our standard of excellence books, #86 (Fen yang song – Chinese Folk Song), is quite similar to JASMINE. Of course, JASMINE is vocal based and FEN YANG SONG is instrument based.