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A Rhapsody Without Intent, Essay Example

Pages: 2

Words: 482

Essay

Xi Shuye’s “Rhapsody on the Zither” helps the listeners see the real beauty of the instrument as demonstrated by the majestic paulownia tree’s opening description. The frequent references to mountainous heights and sunlight portray the zither as a beacon in the treacherous landscape. Everything from trees to rocks and waters has character that influences zither’s immortal audience. The alliteration reminds us of the contrast of the zither’s peacefulness with the strange chaotic rhythm of the world without music.

The rhapsody on the zither is unique just as a clear diamond is easily distinguishable among rubies, carnelian, and jade. Xi Shuye compares the shade of paulownia trees to heroes, from both the past and the future, and presents the paulownia tree as an eternal source of inspiration and philosophical self-examination. The virtue of creating a zither increases because of its perilous surroundings and it becomes a quest to experience its “natural divine beauty which inspires admiration and interest.” (285)

The craftsmanship which transforms the tree into an instrument requires a delicate balance between sturdy wood and delicate strings as well as gaps and joints and the instrument is then adorned with precious gems. The natural beauty of the paulownia tree inspires awe, especially the way it is decorated with various baubles. This new gem, the zither, only improves over time as evident by the author’s description of how strings gradually attune to one another. The character of the original sacred wood is entirely transformed, allowing a humble man to commune with the wood.

During the process of conformity, the wood is shallowly outfitted, the musicians accept the proper musical structure, the listeners only hear the notes, and eventually an art is born. Yet art knows no restraint as Xi Shuye satirizes attempts at mastering the zither and wood as vain, “All in accord with rules, strong and sure.” (248) and compares the silence after the musicians’ performance to ‘Grand Simplicity’. Shuye believes that releasing control over the zither is the only way to free its innate genius. In the notes of verse VI, Xi, Shuye writes that “The Viscount of Wei” was originally composed to lament the fall of a dynasty and the song  seems to mourn the fall of pure art. Only these songs combined together create a harmony true to the zither.

Xi Shuye terms each movement as if it were made of colors, lights, hues, colors, and feelings. The human interaction between the natural and artificial elements, both as the musician and the audience, becomes sensual and relatable to the reader as well. The unrestrained art is like a galloping horse, aiming for a brilliant harmony yet is closely scrutinized for a better understanding of its beauty. When the author finally compliments the music, he finds it difficult to restrain himself. Shuve is convinced that the zither holds the key to human emotion.

Works Cited

Xi Shuye. “Rhapsody on the Zither” : 279- . Print.

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