This is the official first blog post of this new site! Guqin Reflections is something that I have been thinking of working on for a while now, that has finally beginning to emerge into fruition, with many motivations behind it that I will get to shortly.
For those of you visiting the site, you are probably already aware of the guqin (not many people know about the guqin, so the likelihood of stumbling randomly across it in a search is rather small), and perhaps you are players, enthusiasts, or even builders of the instrument. For those of you who don’t know, the guqin is an ancient Chinese seven stringed zither. I could go much further into the details and history of the guqin (or qin), however there are many, many, very well written and in depth sites that go over all of these details, and you can find links to these sites and sources in the Guqin Resources tab at the top bar in the main menu (or click on the link). They will go far more into detail on it, and it seems less productive to re-write and summarize what others have so well and eloquently done.
Perhaps you are music enthusiasts, artists, engineers, craftsmen, etc. I welcome all and everyone, as this site shall touch upon many aspects of music, art, science, engineering, and craftsmanship – such a multidisciplinary approach to a subject allows us to make further connections and realizations much greater than just focusing on a single subject, and allows us to further explore subjects at a much deeper depth and understanding.
The purpose of this site is several fold – mainly to release my work, experiences, research, and progress with this amazing instrument. As a short background, I embarked on an endeavor to design and make my own guqin last year, around September-October 2015, completely from scratch, utilizing non-conventional woods and methods (I will write more about the details of the build and experience in upcoming posts). The entire process, from initial design, planning, research, building, fine tuning all the details, and polishing, took a period of about 6-7 months. It was an extraordinarily demanding experience, but extremely rewarding, and has been the culmination of all of my woodworking and instrument making experience up until this point. I have been making and studying world instruments as a hobby for many years now, ever since I got first started with the Shakuhachi (a Japanese root end bamboo flute) in high school, and the experiences have become an integral part of who I am (you can find a complete list of the instruments I have made and studied in the About section.)
Yet my journey with this instrument has just only barely begun, and I have decided to take it a step further. When I was first looking for strings for my instrument, I purchased a very cheap and rather poor quality set of metal-nylon strings that were difficult to string, and had an unpleasant metallic ring to them. Unfortunately, silk strings were too expensive at the time, and I did not yet have any connections in the guqin world to help me obtain middle-cost alternatives such as nylon composite strings, such as the popular Longren Binxian strings, that were available. Thus, like the making of the qin, the engineer in me took over (for those of you who don’t know, an electrical engineer at that – such a blessing and a curse to have a mind consumed only with the thoughts and need to constantly make things!) – why not just make my own strings? From that simple, innocent, and perhaps foolish inquiry, I have been brought down the complex and fascinating world of string making. Taking this one step further, I expanded my tests and research into applying scientific and engineering methods to analyzing the tonal qualities, the timbre, of strings I made, as well as my qin in general, later expanding to other commercially available sets and guqin I have had the chance to test and collect data on. What makes strings sound the way they do? What effects do certain materials, certain construction methods, have on the strings? I begin to gather data, devise tests, and pursue theories for optimizing these strings for this instrument.
Which brings me to the creation of Guqin Reflections. Having all of this data and knowledge is pointless if it is just hoarded to oneself. In my studies, research, and conversations with players, I found that there is really not any objective analysis on the subject relating to qin strings, materials, and timbre. There are a few independent studies, but they have been very limited in scope, focusing on a single instrument for digital sound recreation, or some vibrational analysis of the body, but never anything cross analyzing all different types of strings and methods of making them, as well as looking at the harmonic spectrum of numerous guqin in general. There really has not been much of any work to understand these strings at their utmost basic and core physical level. And from this, there are a lot of misconceptions that arise on the subject. One of the goals of this site is to freely release and provide a detailed scientific analysis relating to the strings and the guqin in general. Instruments such as the violin and guitar have been studied extensively in literature, but, being such a little known instrument, the guqin is extremely limited in these fields of analysis in this regard. Part of my hope and goal is to further advance this field for this instrument: the history, culture, music, ethnomusicology, and traditions have been deeply studied, but the science of this instrument has remained largely untouched.
I will continuously update the content of this site, adding more data, thoughts, pictures, theories, and experiences relating to the guqin. As of writing this post, the site will have almost no content, but bear with me as I slowly expand the material and improve the general formatting and content. But I assure you, that I have many, many, MANY topics, posts, and subjects, tips, proposals, and long analysis to write about relating to the above subjects.
I therefore humbly invite you to join me on this journey in an effort to merge art with science of this fascinating instrument…