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July 22, 2016

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Flute melody evokes longing for freedom

THE bamboo flute, which has always been one of the most essential musical instruments, is widely used in solo and orchestra performances. Flute is called dizi in Chinese. The first known flute appeared in China 7,000 years ago. It was made from the wing bone of a crane.

The bamboo flute is a prominent instrument in traditional Chinese music. Many flute melodies are touching and soothing, such as “Partridges Fly,” one of the best-known flute pieces in China and originally played on xiao, a vertical flute.

“Partridges Fly” was composed in 1926 by Yan Difan, a folk musician in central Hunan Province. The melody soon spread along the Yangtze River and was played both for solo and ensemble performances. It entered the repertoire of many flute artists with various adaptations.

The music depicts the scene of a flock of partridges flying across the sky and evokes in people a sense of longing for freedom and good life. The melody flows vividly from the fingertips of the player.

“You can literally hear the birds flying overhead into the distance and eventually disappear,” says Professor Liu Hong at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Wei Zhongle was the first artist to play “Partridges Fly” in flute solo as a member of a Chinese music ensemble in the United States in 1938. His performance was recorded and preserved.

There are three versions of “Partridges Fly” revised by Lu Chunling, Zhao Songting and Cai Jingmin based on the original Hunan folk music.

Lu’s version is the most popular. He made small changes for each recording but retained the original features with an emphasis on capturing the imaginary flight of partridges.

Click here to listen to the music.

Partridges Fly


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