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Art of making music

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-04 11:25
Chinese singer-actor Yiyang Qianxi. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A songwriting contest focuses on paintings at the Palace Museum, Chen Nan reports

The then 18-year-old artist Wang Ximeng from the Song Dynasty (960-1279) painted A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains, one of the most important pieces in China's fine art history. Centuries later, an 18-year-old singer, Chinese singer-actor Yiyang Qianxi, one of the members of the Chinese boy band TFBoys, pays tribute to him in a song.

The lyrics of the song, Magnificent Landscape in Painting, are written by Taiwan songwriter Vincent Fang and the music is composed by Beijing-based songwriter Zhang Yadong.

The song, features contemporary melodies and traditional Chinese musical instruments, such as the bamboo flute played by Tu Huabing; the guzheng played by Chang Jing and the pipa by Ma Ling and Li Zongli.

The music video of the song was released online on July 25, and it was viewed more than 10 million times within three hours.

Reflecting on the song, Yiyang says on his Sina Weibo account: "I want to share this painting through music with today's young people."

Meanwhile, the release of the song also marks the start of a songwriting competition jointly launched by Tencent Music Entertainment Group's online streaming platform QQ Music and the Palace Museum.

The contest, Ancient Painting Can Sing, is open to songwriters between 17 to 35, and they have to write songs based on 10 ancient paintings at the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City.

The paintings that the songwriters have to focus on include A Panorama of Rivers and Mountains; Night Revels of Han Xizai by Gu Hongzhong, a painter of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960) and Nymph of the Luo River by Gu Kaizhi, a painter of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420).

The songwriters must submit their works online by Sept 1, and 10 winners will be picked through online voting.

The winners will have to perform the songs along with pop singers, including Huo Zun, Hu Yanbin and Yuan Yawei, at a concert held at the Palace Museum this October.

Speaking about the contest, veteran songwriter Zhang says: "Music is abstract, but with those ancient paintings, they resonate with each other and produce visual 'chords' that have influence on listeners.

"It (the song) is also a contemporary way to pay tribute to the paintings."

According to Dennis Hau, group vice-president of Tencent Music Entertainment Group, this collaboration between QQ Music, which has about 800 million registered users, and the Palace Museum, aims at promoting originality and creativity among young Chinese musicians as well as drawing young audiences to traditional Chinese art forms.

"The 10 paintings were done in a time span stretching from the Eastern Jin Dynasty to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), and represent China's fine art history," says Hau, adding that blurring the line between music and the other arts has become a part of popular culture.

Shan Jixiang, the director of the Palace Museum, says: "The crossover between traditional Chinese art, music and technology, is what appeals to young audiences."

And the competition is part of a "creative experiment", which was launched by the Palace Museum and the Chinese internet giant Tencent last December.

The two sides began working together in 2016 when Tencent launched a project called "Next Idea" for young designers to develop games, emojis and other cultural products inspired by the Palace Museum.

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