Conclusion and Final Remarks from the Reporter
The Eight Sounds are, in the World of Music as a whole, one of the most interesting superficially simple structures while yet also being extremely complex at second glance. There is frankly no other material out of which to make any instrument (save for bone, which is still wood-like), so thus, all Western music can either be classified as wood, metal, hide, and so on. However, there is one other form of music that has escaped the realm of the great Eight. It is the human voice.
Since I have heard so many wonderful performances relating to the human instrument during my stay in China (like the girl in this picture), I thought I would take the time to remark on a few key features, even though it does not fit within the rest of this article.
The voice is, first of all, notable as being a mother instrument in any culture. It makes tone every time the vocal cords are used, and this is necessary even to communicate verbally. On top of that, languages often use different tones to portray stress, emotion, or even (like in Mandarin Chinese) a single syllable to denote the difference between horse (马, mǎ) or leprosy (痲, má).
Perhaps singing was just a means of communication that eventually became an art form. If that is the case, then it is no wonder that almost every other type of instrument (drums aside) uses such tones or the change thereof to make music. One may even say that musical instruments are tools to manually create a non-human voice.
However, the evolution of time also brings changes to the way voices are used in art forms versus everyday life. This gap is even more visible with the Chinese people, as subtitles or captions are always needed every time there is a sung performance. It is not because these people just cannot hear what is being said, but in order to sing, everyday tones must be lost to make room for the musical ones. Thus, spoken tone is nonexistent, thus rendering the words incomprehensible. This is not necessarily a negative sign. Rather, it is a way to bring out the pure beauty the voice is capable of producing without the hindering limitations of tonal language.
Perhaps the Eight Sounds have an advantage, then, as far as lingual limitation is concerned. I leave that for the reader to decide, as the voice is not my prime focus here. However, I thought that homage to this final “Sound” must be paid. Perhaps there will be a future article focusing purely on that aspect alone.
As far as the Eight Sounds are concerned, not enough can ever possibly be said in just one simple article. We are all mere students in the end, and I do not believe that there can ever be one final, authoritative source on the matter. Thus, I leave what I hope is an informational and somewhat educational survey piece about Chinese Folk and Traditional music; and I hope that it will eventually lead to greater understanding from the Western and perhaps even Eastern end of the world about the subject as a whole, bringing about greater ties and friendships between them.
So finally, I leave with a simple Chinese proverb:
一回生，二回熟 (yīhuíshēng, èrhuíshú)
At first raw, Later ripe
Strangers in the beginning, Old friends in the end
–Joel Batchler (武乔尔)