Initially created for use in a Taiji intervention study at the University of Illinois, Elixir is a music CD for moving and still meditation practices. This CD is unique in that it was composed and performed in entirety by both a master traditional Chinese musician and longtime practitioner of qigong meditation.
According to traditional Chinese medical theory, music has healing properties. Indeed, the Chinese character for music is the major part of the ancient Chinese character for medicine. Also, the Chinese character for happiness and music is one and the same!
Composed around "the five notes" (i.e., the pentatonic scale) and making use of both traditional Chinese instruments and modern synthesizers, Elixir is a contemporary Chinese recording with beautiful melodies that may used as an accompaniment to your moving or still meditation practice or simply enjoyed for the beauty of the music. Some tunes were designed to help lead the practitioner to a state of quietude and peacefulness, while others are simply joyous musical expressions of the ineffable experiences and sensations of moving and still meditation.
Composer's Notes for Elixir: Music for Moving and Still Meditation
The title of the first song, Lunhui, means "circle." The piece begins with gong and chimes (common percussions in ancient Chinese music), and Beijing opera style percussion. The melody is played with the sounds of zheng (an ancient type of zither), dizi (flute), and erhu. This piece is a nice accompaniment to moving meditation, such as the Taiji form.
The second song, Wandering, is inspired by Daoist philosophy. It combines musical styles from Shandong and Henan provinces, the native place of Laozi. Two differently tuned erhus and the zheng play the melody, and traditional monastic wood blocks are used for percussion. This is an entirely improvised composition.
The third through fifth pieces are a serial work, all musical expressions of various sensations and experiences encountered in meditation. The third piece is a musical representation of the ethereal experience at the beginning of standing meditation, when the head is touching heaven and the feet are connected to earth, and the inner feeling when the three things (heaven, human body, and earth) merge to oneness. The fourth piece, Purification, is similarly a musical expression of experiences in sitting meditation. The fifth piece, Circulation, expresses one type of feeling that may flow from the quiescence of meditation, the physical feeling that the heart is warm and blood and energy is flowing, and an accompanying emotion of love and beauty. This song begins with a western classical style motif, and flows into an improvised melody that is a combination of jazz, blues, and traditional Chinese music.
The Chinese believe that all of nature is a source of vital energy, or qi, and the beauty of nature has always been a source of inspiration in Chinese music. The portrait in Morning Immersion is one of the rapture of breathing in pure air in the early morning in a pristine forest, with the birds beginning to sing and the calming sounds of a mountain stream in the background.
The final composition, Aspiring Emptiness, includes an electronic combination of two types of zithers - the zheng and qin - and improvised ehru melodies. The qin is an ancient instrument that was a favorite of Chinese literati.
About the Composer - Ms. Yang Ying
A student of her father, Ms. Yang Ying began the study of the erhu at the age of five. By thirteen, she was performing solo concerts at the theater in her hometown, and by nineteen she had graduated from the Opera University of Henan, China and had begun performing for the Chinese National Song and Dance Ensemble (Zhong Yang Ge Wu Tuan) in Beijing. At the age of twenty-five, Yang Ying won first place in a national erhu competition, clearly distinguishing herself as one of the foremost erhu players in China.
The Chinese National Song & Dance Ensemble is the premier traditional musical and dance troupe in China, and from 1978-1996 Ms. Yang Ying was the featured solo instrumentalist. As the featured soloist, Yang Ying routinely traveled throughout Asia performing for Heads of State (including three American Presidents: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter). During her tenure, she also frequently recorded for the film and record industry in China. In 1996, Ms. Yang Ying's accomplishments were recognized by her inclusion in the Chinese government's publication of Famous Persons of China.
Ms. Yang Ying is also interested in a fusion of Western and Eastern music. She was the founder, bass player, and singer for Cobra, the first all female rock band in China. Cobra had achieved international recognition, and was one of seven bands to play at the largest rock concert ever held in China. She is currently recording a CD that is a fusion of the diverse styles of traditional Chinese music with Western jazz, blues, and funk influences.
Check out the artist's website:
3. Heaven, Human, Earth
6. Morning Immersion
7. Aspiring Emptiness