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Intimate History no. 2: ssteve

a radiophonic work

Year:  2008   ·  Duration:  13m 15s

Year:  2008
Duration:  13m 15s


This work is created from an interview I conducted with Steve Jones in June 2005 when the Hua family shawm band, which he was managing and researching, held a residency at SOAS, London University. Our conversation covered Steve’s researches in Chinese music and also aspects of his particular speech impediment. At my request he demonstrated two Chinese instruments: the erhu fiddle and the double reed shawm suona. These informally played musical examples, along with Steve’s recorded voice, constitute the material of this ‘Intimate History’. The work was realised in the studio of the Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC) in Gotland, Sweden, during April 2008.

Stephen Jones has been documenting living traditions of folk music in rural China since 1986. A co-founder of CHIME, the European Foundation of Chinese Music Research, since 1993 he has held research fellowships at SOAS. Apart from many articles and CDs, he is author of the influential Folk music of China: living instrumental traditions (OUP 1995/1998 with CD). His book Plucking the Winds: lives of village musicians in old and new China (CHIME, 2004, with CD) is a riveting, lavishly-illustrated ethnography of the 20th century in one north Chinese village told through the experiences of its ritual musicians. His book Ritual and music of north China: shawm bands in Shanxi (Ashgate, 2007) includes a DVD documentary; a second volume, (Ashgate, 2009) also with DVD, describes musical life in Shaanbei.

Steve is also a violinist in leading early music ensembles in London, and features on many of the seminal modern recordings of Bach, Mozart, etc.

Steve himself adds: “My casual playing of erhu and suona that day was merely material for Jack’s imaginative treatment of them; as an audio picture of my musical world, one might wish to include my Bach on violin too! I demonstrated more folksy styles on the erhu, but Jack found phrases from the modern classic solo Jiangheshui more suitable for his treatment – which in a way is precisely the kind of piece that my research showed was marginal to the lives of Chinese people! If you’d like to hear the Chinese music that I talk about as inspiring me, the sheng-guan ritual music style can be heard on the CDs with my books Folk Music of China and Plucking the Winds; the shawm bands on the Pan CD Walking Shrill and on the DVD with my book Ritual and music of North China. As to stammering, people often find their life-choices controlled by it in insidious ways, but help is available!”

Commissioned note

Commissioned by the Visby International Centre for Composers (VICC) in Gotland, Sweden