Hugo Productions and the Chinese classical avant-garde

The phrase ‘Chinese classical music’ probably brings to mind the type of ding-dong zithery stuff you hear in restaurants with names like Golden Dragon or Jade Pagoda. That’s a shame because as a musical form it is often complex and interesting and, like jazz, it is a living music that is still experiencing dynamic changes and interpretations. This is the direct opposite of Western ‘classical’ music which has, for all intents and purposes, become a museum piece. Often times the sounds that come out of contemporary Chinese classical music resemble the more abstract and probing music of jazz players like Derek Bailey and Tim Berne. The results can be mysterious and uncanny.

[N.B. I detest terms like ‘classical music’ and ‘avant-garde jazz’ not only because they are inaccurate, but because they do not refer to established genres: such phrases are marketing categories. To even use them is to capitulate to the all-consuming capitalist Moloch that is devouring our civilization, but I’ll save that rant for when we next meet and drink].

In Singapore, I picked up a bunch of CDs from a label called Hugo Productions, based in Hong Kong, which specializes in the sort of Chinese music that I’m referring to. Unfortunately, I only have three CDs with me now, but I’ve uploaded some examples from each, with hopefully more to come soon.  The translations of song titles are either given on CD covers or by my in-house Chinese translation expert (we’ve been married since 2009).

By the way, the Qin that Zhang Zi Qian plays was made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), which means it’s around 400 years old. This instrument is known as ‘Stormy Surges.’

CD title Guangling Qin Music Vol. 1

Qin music performed by Zhang Zi Qian


‘Three Variations of Plum Blossom’

CD title Autumn Moon and Winter Frost

Qin music performed by Tse Chun Yan

‘Water Immortal’ (handed down by Tsar Teh Yun)

‘Ye Luo’ (composed by Tang Lok Yin, 2009); vocal by Yu Mei Lai

CD title Night Moon (classic modern erhu)

Compositions by Liu Tian Hua

Performed by Zheng Xiong Liang, Cui Quan, Liu Qing


‘Night Moon’

‘Good Night’


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