Yage – The Chinese Lieder
*Yage*, a new musical term, which is originated in the Chinese language,
literally means “Elegant Song”. Being presented in the form of the Chinese
art song, it is composed of the similar elements as *Lieder* and *Chanson
(or **mélodie**)*, namely the musical setting of Chinese poetry – the old
classics, the modern, and the contemporary poems written by generations of
great poets. The essence of Yage is to express and convey the profound
inner emotions and the true spiritual world of the poets through singing,
aiming to provide the listeners with the meaning of the poems as well as
the esthetic beauty of the music. In the technical scope, Yage singing
requires the master of the *bel canto *technique, combined with strictly
regulated articulation of the Chinese pronunciation, to create a natural
fusion of the *Lieder* style, *bel canto* technique, and the Chinese
poetry. Yage is normally accompanied by a piano or a chamber ensemble.
Yage, as an emerging genre of the Chinese music, can be traced back to as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC – 256 BC), during which the music, mainly instrumental, was known as *Yayue* (Elegant Music). Around or before the 7th century BC, a pitch system of pentatonic scale was established, and the earliest Chinese poetry, one of the Confucian classics, *Shi Jing* (*The Book of Poetry*), started the “sung poetry” tradition, which was developed and reﬁned for hundreds of years, ultimately reached its golden age during the Dynasties of Tang, Song, and Yuan. The emergence of the modern Chinese art songs started from the early 20th Century when the pioneers of the young Chinese composers returned from Europe and brought with them the inﬂuence of the Western musical literature and the musical notation system. The most inﬂuential “scholarly composers” include Zhao Yuanren, Huang Zi, Xiao Youmei, Liu Xuean, among others. Similar, yet different from the German Lieder, the poems they chose to set to music were not only the expression of romantic love and yearning, nostalgia of the travelers toward their homeland and! admiration of nature were also the major themes of their composition. The! songs they created characterized by their simple tunes, elegant and! beautiful melodic lines, and the revelation of the singer’s lofty thoughts, the most intimate and profound emotions and spiritual world. However, during the decade long Cultural Revolution, these art songs were criticized as bourgeois sentiment and therefore forbidden; the revival didn’t come until the 1980s. In recent years, contemporary art songs gradually appeared and have become one of the music forms on the Chinese stage.
The Chinese tenor Fan Jingma, who received his *bel canto* training in China, Italy (with Carlo Bergonzi), and New York (with Franco Corelli), is a worldwide recognized opera, concert and recital singer. He endowed the Chinese art songs with the term *Yage*, aiming to establish the 6th Art Song genre in the world music history, which will be the parallel of the German *Lieder*, French *Chanson*, Italian *Bel Canto*, Russian *Romance*, and the British and American *Musicals. *Under this principle, Yage – the Chinese Lieder, is rooted in the foundation of the Chinese history and culture, by combining with the Western music form, creates a natural fusion of a new art form that will express the most profound universal emotion and reach the highest level of the esthetic beauty, which will be accepted, shared, and appreciated by both of the Eastern and the Western Worlds.