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The song “光亮 (Guang Liang),” directly translated into “Brightness,” is the theme song for the documentary “The Forbidden City,” and is sung by the Chinese singer, Zhou Shen. Chinese contemporary lyricist Gou Lin and composer Qian Lei incorporated parts into the song that originated from a poem written by Northern Song Dynasty poet Su Shi. What makes this song special is the way Zhou Shen sang it. Zhou Shen is able to switch flawlessly between a wide range of pitches, which allows him to freely arrange the harmony at different parts of the song. In the second part of the song, there is the incorporation of the chants and arias of the Peking Opera at 3:25. With the incorporation of this traditional Chinese culture, the lyrics of the song contain a message that expresses an open-minded and optimistic attitude towards life. The homophonic texture of this song also makes it special as one of the instrumental accompaniments used is the ancient Xun (古埙), which is a globular, vessel flute, and is one of the oldest musical instruments in China with its use dating back to approximately seven thousand years ago.

A unit in which this piece of music can be featured could be Unit 7: Sung and Danced Drama. In this unit, we mentioned upon Beijing Opera, and this song “光亮” contains elements of this traditional art. Important concepts this song would help teach include how composers and artists today are able to incorporate traditional forms of music into more modern styles, which in this case, is electrical music. It can act as a modern example of how the Beijing opera tradition is being kept and delivered to the listeners of the song.

光亮 (Guang Liang) sung by Zhou Shen

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February 2023

This course includes Open Educational Resources (OER), which are entirely cost-free and accessible online. Developed in the Open Knowledge Fellowship at The Graduate Center's Mina Rees Library, this work is made possible by state grant funding through the Office of Library Services.

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