A monumental production combining Chinese and Western instruments;
an epic musical journey
独一无二 气势磅礴 荡气回肠
The monumental tale of Three Kingdoms is set in the waning days of the Han Dynasty, when the last Han emperors placed heavy trust in eunuchs and ostracized able officials. The government became extremely corrupt and inefficient, leading to serious deterioration in the economy and national security. In the turbulent years, ambitious men like Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan rose to power one after another, laying foundations for the three kingdoms — Wei, Shu and Wu, while other strong forces like Yuan Shao, Liu Biao, Ma Teng and Gongsun Zan were eliminated in the struggles. The master narrative transforms history into epic and has thereby exemplifies unforgettable martial and civic virtue, personal fidelity and political treachery. History goes beyond our imagination. As best exemplified in the opening remarks of the classical novel Romance of Three Kingdoms, domains under heaven, after a long period of division, tends to unite; after a long period of union, tends to divide.
The year of 2007, eighteen centuries after the historical era of the tale, marks the birthday of an original epic album — Three Kingdoms. During the three years to get it ready, the producers and performers dedicated themselves into the innovative task. Now they want to say, every effort pays off.
The novel is studded with numerous “mini-stories”, many of which could be developed into full-length novels in their own right. Twelve of the most well-known ones are selected in the album, as a very high level summary of the entire story. Orchestras combined by both Chinese and western instruments represent both a historical and international approach. Grand musical expressions echo the breadth of vision of the heroes from ancient times.
The epic journey, beginning with The Fateful Moment at the end of Han Dynasty and concluding with Three Kingdoms Become One marking unification after years of division, is a fulfilling unity. Large scale strings are used to build up the grand background. The epic focuses on the warring years and extends beyond the battles.
Scenes of battles are present in several pieces, especially the most classic two: The Battle of Red Cliff and the Battle of Guandu, which have been collected in the album. Besides is the richness of sentiments. Each piece adopts a different approach and unique set of instruments. Detailed explanations for every piece are provided in music descriptions below.
In addition to the careful preparations, we are also lucky to have the top musicians to give their performances, Zhang Weiliang, Zhao Jiazhen, Zhang Qiang, Du Cong, Wang Jianhua, National Orchestra of China, China Philharmonic Orchestra, to name but a few. The recording is delicately done by Li Xiaopei at the 480 square Meter Recording Studio of CCTV 。Producers of Rhymoi Music even traveled to Japan to finish the post production with JVC-XRCD Master Center. The American music critic Joshua Cheek reviewed the album and offered his suggestions.
Three Kingdoms offers not only marvelous scenes on the canvas of history but also a source for thoughts, an insight and outlook into life itself. It touches the heart and sings for the dream.
1.The Fateful Moment
It was a fateful moment at the end of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) when the future of the Chinese empire laid in the balance. During the reign of the penultimate Han emperor, Emperor Ling, the Yellow Turban Rebellion broke out under the leadership of Zhang Jiao, who practiced Taoist wizardry and supposedly held immortal powers. Without a strong central government, the marquises returned to their own territories and soon began fighting among themselves. Many talented leaders who were formally without title or troops, such as Cao Cao and Liu Bei, were also building up their own forces. The tensions between different forces set in motion the series of events that ultimately resulted in the collapse of the Han.
The overture begins with Brass and Percussion, illustrating the dark turbulent era of the 3rd Century. The sound of Suona gets on our nerves. The tragic scene on streets and battlefields, the wail of civilians and call of uprising all indicate a remarkable period of history.
2.A Heroic Rescue of the Child Lord at Changbanpo
After Cao Cao took over Xiangyang, Liu Bei fled with his followers while Cao’s men pressed on. On this career of slaughter which ended in safety, Zhao Yun, bearing in his bosom the child lord Liu Shan, cut down two main banners, took three spears, wounded and slew Cao Cao's generals half a hundred, all men of renown.
Various Chinese drums combined with brass portray the most imminent danger. The unusual intensity of the usually elegant Guzheng is highlighted against the background of strings. Bangu mimicks the march of horses and Pipa represents the courageous and handsome Zhao Yun beating off any rival standing in his way.
3.Wisdom in an Empty City
After Ma Su lost Jieting, Sima Yi was advancing rapidly on Xicheng with an army of one hundred fifty thousand troops. No leader of rank was left to Zhuge Liang. However, he had a plan for the city defense. Throwing open all the gates and set twenty soldiers dressed as ordinary people cleaning the streets at each gate, he donned the simple Taoist dress and played his Guqin on the city wall, with a stick of incense burning. Sima Yi thought those open gates undoubtedly meant an ambush and ordered his troops to retire.
The interaction of Qin and Chiba depict the intellectual struggle between Zhuge and Sima. Drums and strings of the advancing troops create a pressing atmosphere. At the end of the piece are accelerado and forte for Guqin while piano for Chiba — signaling the former prevails while the latter hastens away.
4.Three Visits to Show Sincerity
In exile after a failed attempt to ambush Cao Cao, Liu Bei established his base in Xinye. There he acquired his chief advisor Zhuge Liang after three visits to the latter's home — the Sleeping Dragon Ridge. During the first two visits, Zhuge refused to see his visitors, pretending to be out. Only on the last visit was Zhuge moved by the sincerity and perseverance of Liu Bei and agreed to join his side.
This piece is divided into three parts, each with a leading instrument, namely Di, Xiao and Paixiao, which represent the mentality of the characters during the three visits.
5.One-thousand-li Ride of a Solitary Journey
The defeat in Xuzhou by Cao Cao set the three brothers — Liu, Guan and Zhang apart. Guan Yu was lured to serve in Cao Cao’s court. Though treated with respect, when Guan heard that Liu Bei was with Yuan Shao, he decided to go and join him. In the course of his journey, Guan Yu had forced five passes and slain six generals who tried to stop him. The brotherhood is highlighted in this piece.
Strings sketch mountains and hills in the dusk as well as Guan’s dreams to reunite with his brothers. Ban interrupted the endless waiting followed by Pipa’s illustration of the eagerness when Guan got to know where Liu Bei is., Guan’s strong feelings in the process are presented by Pipa.
6.Zhuge Mourns at Chaisang
Provoked by Zhuge Liang for three times, Zhou Yu passed away at thirty six. To consolidate the alliance of Sun and Liu, Zhuge went to the funeral himself and poured the libation. Then he knelt and read this threnody. After the sacrifice was finished, Zhuge bowed to the ground and keened while his tears gushed forth in floods.
Guanzi — the leading instrument in this piece, at the historical time when the above scene took place, was called Bili. The choir, Erhu and Bass set the background of Zhuge’s grave mourning. Nobody, even Zhuge himself, could ever know how much of this feeling was true. However, it is for sure that Zhuge regretted the death of the young talented opponent.
7.The War of Red Cliffs
The Battle of Red Cliffs, otherwise known as the Battle of Chibi was a decisive battle during the period of the Three Kingdoms in China. It took place in the winter of 208 between the allied forces of the southern warlords — Liu Bei and Sun Quan, and the northern warlord Cao Cao. Liu and Sun successfully frustrated Cao's effort to conquer the land south of the Yangtze River. They took the advantage of the wind direction and blew fire to the fleet of the Cao. After this battle, the empire was finally divided by the three kingdoms.
The masculine brass, rhythmic strings and drums imply the huge battle to come. With the sudden pause, a feeling of death fills all the room. Then soldiers, horses, arrow, burning wood … all elements on a battle field came onto stage. Music ends with a sound of Luo, echoing in the remote history.
8. Tie the Knot
In a bid to do away with Liu Bei, whom he deemed to be a potential threat, Sun Quan offered to marry his own sister to Liu at the counsel of Zhou Yu. Liu Bei was lured to Chaisang for the wedding, where there was a plot to assassinate him. However, Sun Quan was very filial towards his step-mother, the Sun Dowager, who had taken care of him after his blood mother died. The Sun Dowager took a liking to Liu Bei, and when she got wind of the plot to assassinate him, she flew into a great rage and insisted that no harm was to come to him. Sun Quan, being left with no choice, agreed. Aided by the cunning of Zhuge Liang, Liu Bei later escaped back to Jiangxia together with his new wife on the pretext of going to offer incense to the ancestors during the Lunar New Year.
The great joys of the wedding constitute the general atmosphere of the piece. Yet the bride sounds at a loss concerning the part played by Erhu. It seems to predict the coming days that she is going to spend with the man in a place far, far from home.
9.The Battle of Guandu
The Battle of Guandu shifted the balance of power in northern China. Cao Cao destroyed Yuan Shao's grain supplies and his army. The latter died soon after. It laid the foundation for Cao's absolute power over the entirety of northern China.
The decisive battle of one million troops unveils its curtain by horns. Drums and other percussions create an exciting battlefield.
10. Seven Captures and Six Releases of Meng Huo
In one of his final strokes of brilliance, Zhuge Liang launched a campaign against Meng Huo, the king of Man tribe. Zhuge Liang captured Meng Huo alive six times, each time letting him go unscathed and showing him the Shu camp, so that Meng Huo could form a new plan. When Zhuge decided to let Meng Huo go the seventh time he was captured, he was moved by Zhuge Liang's wit and benevolence and swore allegiance to Shu forever.
Traditional Chinese instruments Ruan, Bangu and Bawu exemplify an exotic atmosphere. African drum imitate the local instrument of Man tribe. Meng Huo, as the barbarous yet brave leader is illustrated by Pipa.
11. The Only Heroes Are You And I
In order to put Cao Cao quite off the scent that any plot against him was in progress, Liu Bei devoted himself to gardening. He was busy with vegetables one day when Cao Cao asked him to the plum garden. With a drink of wine, Cao raised the topic of heroes and asked Liu to name some. When Cao gave his answer by saying, “The only heroes in the world are you and I”, Liu gasped, and the spoon and chopsticks rattled to the floor. But he quickly composed himself by attributing the shock to hearing the thunder.
The development of Guzheng seems a vast sea without tides and waves on the surface. Then arrives Cao’s questioning displayed by Chiba and Liu’s reluctant responses displayed by Yun. Vision and wisdom are what the music intends to tell.
12. Three Kingdoms Become One
In 265 AD, Sima Yan established the Jin Dynasty, making himself the first emperor of the new dynasty. He took a dozen of years to subdue the last lords of the kingdoms. Thus the Three Kingdoms period concluded after almost a century of civil strife.
Now that the empire was reunified, the most violent ups and downs finally turn into peace and hope. Drums, brass, strings and choir sing together for the new theme. Whatever has happened, is history already!
Notes by the Producer:
Romance of Three Kingdoms is the most popular novel in Asia, and one of my personal favorites. Written 600 years ago, it tells the epic of Han Dynasty in China during the 2nd and 3rd century. Sometimes I looked at this old story and marveled to see it glow as the time goes by. Protagonists in the novel, such as Zhao Yun, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei, were idols for millions of young people like me. Later on I heard a single about three kingdoms made by Japanese musicians. It was gloomy and weird. I was astonished, how could the monumental tale of three kingdoms be delivered in such a way?
From then on, I decided to make a difference. I reread the original text for several times and brainstormed with many composers. As everybody knows the story well, the breadth for musical expression calls for special consideration. Revisions of the script especially of the form took three years.
A musical rendering of romance of three kingdoms is an innovation in itself. There was a fear that the time and efforts invested in the production might not pay off as much as it should. However, Rhymoi still carried on. This, could be called the Rhymoi way of doing music - we always have our own way.
Dealing with such a classic is by no means an easy task. We need a modern aesthetic approach, a musical expression that modern people would appreciate, a smart way to match historiography with fiction, and a synergistic effect from the combination of elite and popular tradition. To achieve all these, we introduce western musical elements into the traditional Chinese one. Western instruments highlight the strength and colors of the sound, while traditional Chinese instruments illustrate the national feature. Besides this, our major focuses also go to the creation of a picturesque melody and a dramatic feeling.
An orchestral epic means a well-developed storyline. From the overture The Fateful Moment to the final Three Kingdoms Become One, the album tries to illustrate the classic literature from different angles. Exciting scenes are created one after another as the music develops — the tragedy and intensity in A Heroic Rescue of the Child Lord at Changbanpo, the intellectual struggle in Wisdom in an Empty Country, the touching brotherhood in One-thousand-li Ride of a Solitary Journey, the happiness in Ties the Knot, and the sorrow in Zhuge Mourns at Chaisang. The music lasts only a dozen of minutes, yet the tale extends for a whole century.
Preparations and production are done in a most careful way to satisfy the expectation of music lovers. To strive for the best effect, advanced production and recording technologies were used and hundreds of artists joined hands. And without the tremendous support from friends, both home and abroad, this work would have been impossible. It might not be perfect but it represents every effort of the whole team. A little patience is what we expect from our audience. We are also eager to receive feedbacks from you, be it a note of encouragement or a review from the critics.
Treasure house as it is, the Chinese civilization is to be introduced further to the world. Hopefully with our concerted efforts, the world will understand and appreciate more of China and its music. Rhymoi Music is willing to be part of it and we need your encouragement and support.
Three Kingdoms is just the beginning.
Sep.30, 2007, Beijing
About the Composer:
Dr. Wang Ning, is currently the professor and director of the Composition Department and director of the Multimedia Music Center of China Conservatory of Music, director of the Chinese Musician’s Association.
Dr. Wang has served as a distinguished jurist for many national competitions and has himself received many prestigious musical awards, including the “Golden Bell Award” and the “Golden Rooster Awards” for film music. Wang has additionally received numerous international honors.
Wang Ning is a prolific composer and writes music in nearly every form and style, including opera, three symphonies , concertos for Chinese instruments and western orchestra, national orchestral music, chamber music, electronic music, many pieces of choral music, art-song, movie & TV music, etc.
About the Sound Engineer:
The distinguished recording and sound Li Xiaopei graduated from the recording engineering department of the Beijing Film Institute, and is presently the senior chief sound engineer of CCTV. For more than 35 years Li Xiaopei has worked as principle sound technician and engineer for nearly ever facet of China;s entertainment industry including the widely watched CCTV “Spring Festival” broadcasts, in addition to being one of the most in-demand sound designers for many large scale television productions. In addition to his work for CCTV, Li Xiaopei is active as a commentator, guest lecturer and technical advisor for many broadcast concerts, movies and television shows.
Li Xiaopei is particularly famous for his recordings of folk music and percussion music. He has developed his own unique perspective on how to dynamically capture the subtle flavors of ethnic music, especially capturing the characteristic contours of Chinese folk instruments.
Throughout his career, Li has received numerous awards including “Best Recording” in the Chinese Star Awards, China Music TV Best Recording Award (Engineering) and the Chinese Television Artists Association award for Best Sound Engineering. Li Xiaopei has received numerous international honors including being the first sound engineer from China to appear on “The Absolute Sound” audiophile recording charts.
Li Xiaopei’s published works include the CD recordings "Sound of Rhythm", "Poems of Thunder," "Master of Chinese Percussion", "Bamboo Music" and "Dream of an Opera", "Forever Red", "The Song of Songs" and others.
Surround Sound recordings for films include: "Ga Da Mei Lin”, "Big Shot’s Funeral" or "The Road Home," "Green Tea", "Peacock" , "Nanjing, Nanjing" and many, many others.
音乐制作人, 美国格莱美协会会员 , 创立中国声誉卓著的音乐品牌“瑞鸣音乐”，并任制作人，中国金唱片奖最佳音乐人特别奖获得者。从事音乐创作、制作多年，获海内外重要音乐媒体高度评价，部分作品被海外唱片公司收录出版，所制作的音乐作品在高端音乐市场得到较大认同，并远销海外，销售成绩斐然。担任制作人的唱片及音乐作品曾多次获“美国独立音乐大奖”“中国金唱片奖”“中华优秀出版奖”“华语音乐传媒大奖”等百余个奖项，在中国城市广播联盟评选“中国十大发烧唱片”中数次入选，作品多次入选“CD圣经”等海内外专业评比。因多年与国际音乐制作及出版行业的密切合作经历，音乐创作理念及制作手段具有国际化的开阔视角。
About the Producer:
Ye Yunchuan，Producer, composer, arranger, graphic designer, Grammy member, and the founder of one of China’s most prestigious audiophile recording labels, Rhymoi Music, Ye Yunchuan is further distinguished as the first Full Voting Member of the American Grammy Awards (The National Academy for Recording Arts and Science – NARAS) representing the Chinese music industry. He is, without any question, one of the rising stars in China’s growing music industry. Prior to his current activities, Ye established an international reputation, as a composer and producer, being awarded several American Independent Music Awards, Chinese Golden Album Awards, numerous rave reviews in CD Bible (China) in addition to being included on China City Radio Association’s “Ten Hottest Albums” roundup. Years of cooperation with international music production and publication circles has provided him with a truly global perspective. As founder of his own recording label, Rhymoi Music, he is committed to establishing new standards of excellence for recorded music in China. Rhymoi Music recordings are immediately identifiable - with their innovative approaches to programming, world-class musical and artistic standards, beauty of presentation and packaging, cultural relevance, and their conscious desire to introduce the treasures of Chinese music to an international audience - Rhymoi Music is without peer. With his deep commitment to the traditions and national music of his homeland, Ye Yunchuan is committed to building new and ever more creative and beautiful bridges between the musical heritage of China and the musical traditions of the world. Ye Yunchuan continues to realize his vision with each new recording.
Pipa: Zhang Qiang
Di&Xiao: Du Cong
Guqin: Zhao Jiazhen
Chiba: Zhang Weiliang
Chinese Percussion: Wang Jianhua
Western Percussion: Liu Gang
Erhu: Deng Jiandong
Ruan: Wang Jia
Guanzi: Guo Xiang
Suona: Zhou Dongchao
Guzheng: Qiu Ji
Harp: Wang Guan
Bassoon: Wang Xiaoke
Brass: Jia Hui/Qin Guochen/Zhao Xin/Mi Qi
Plucked Strings Quartet: Zhang Qiang/Cui Junmiao/Geng Hui/Sun Zheng
Choir: 12 singers such as Cao Yaqin
Strings: 34 artists such as Huang Lijie
Producer: Ye Yunchuan
Executive Producer: Ye Yunchuan
Composer: Wang Ning
Recording Engineer: Li Xiaopei
Assistant Recording Engineers: Wang Heng / Liu Bo
Assistant Composers:Wang hua `an /Wen zhanli
Chinese Copywriter: Yang Qian
English Copywriter: Zheng Wenbo
Designing: Zhang Hong Ke Design Studio
Mastering Engineer: Sogimoto
Recording Venue: The 480 square Meter Recording Studio of CCTV
Mastering: JVC Technology Center (Japan), Stockfisch Records (Germany)
Produced by: Rhymoi Music. Co., Ltdwww.rhymoi.com
Copyright Statement: The music and arrangements appearing on this album have been licensed in accordance with the copyright laws of China. If there are any errors, please contact us.
The Fateful Moment
A Heroic Rescue of the Child Lord at Changbanpo
Wisdom in an Empty City
Three Visits to Show Sincerity
One-thousand-li Ride of a Solitary Journey
Zhuge Mourns at Chaisang
The War of Red Cliffs
Tie the Knot
The Battle of Guandu
Seven Captures and Six Releases of Meng Huo
The Only Heroes Are You And I
Three Kingdoms Become One