That’s the title of one of the most soulful, and popular, pieces in the qin zither repertoire—unusually, not documented until 1937.
You can find tributes to my mentor Lin Youren (1938–2013) online, including the delightful
included in the fine article
- Frank Kouwenhoven, Lin Chen and Helen Rees, “Chinese music across generations—case studies of conservatory musicians in 20th-century China”.
So here I’ll just add a few of my own memories of Lin Youren.
Excerpts from my liner notes with the CD:
Lin Youren is a true eccentric. [Here I’m thinking of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove]. His story contains intriguing contrasts, since he learned and taught the qin under the conservatory system, but came to find the juxtaposition incongruous, quietly subverting it from within. […]
His preferred way of playing is alone with a few friends—and, in another ancient tradition of the qin player, a bottle or two of Shaoxing wine. […]
If his playing roams the clouds of Daoist selflessness, his conversation is quirky, cryptic and full of puns.
The CD is very fine—here’s the opening track, “Evening song of the drunken fisherman” (Zuiyu chang wan 醉漁唱晚):
One unusual feature is its inclusion of his “Improvisation for Michael Owen”. More from the notes:
I’m not sure you really want to know this, but the musical germ of this fantasia was the singing of exhilarated English fans in my local pub after we relished Michael Owen’s superb goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. Lin found the famous football song reminiscent of the singing of Miao tribespeople in southwest China (“Not a lot of people know that”, I mused as we emerged from the pub), but by the time we got to the recording session he had wholly internalized it for the intimacy of the qin.
Actually, since Lin Youren was staying with me, he tried it out for the first time as soon as we got back from the pub. A couple of days later we took the train for the recording session at Nimbus’s fine studio near Monmouth. To help him feel at home we plied him with Shaoxing wine; and he felt it would further help the vibe if I sat with him as he played, so he would have a real, and empathetic, audience. He improvised for much longer than the version on the CD, which is edited down—not quite to his satisfaction. Still, this CD was his favourite among all his recordings.