Instrument R&D

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Instrument R&D

Eco-Huqins


Excellence of HKCO's Eco-Huqin Series recongnized:

  • Another U Green Awards for ‘Excellence of Environmental Contributions - Culture and Art’ in 2016
  • U Green Awards for ‘Excellence of Environmental Contributions - Culture and Art’ (2015)
  • ‘Distinguished Innovative Environmental Concept Award’ at the ‘Green China 2014 - Environmental Achievement Awards’ (2014)
  • ‘Green Innovations Award’ presented by the ‘2013 Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence’ (2014)
  • Honours list of the ‘4th Ministry of Culture Innovation Awards’ of the People’s Republic of China (2012)
  • Hong Kong Awards for Environmental Excellence - “Class of Good” Productwi$e Label’ (2008)

New concepts, new instruments, a new level and a new realm
The Eco-Huqin Series is a system of reformed (or remodelled) musical instruments developed by the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra motivated by the need to create a new orchestral voice. The design encapsulates a three-pronged motive, which is to address environmental concerns, uphold a musical heritage and break new ground.  The engineering process involved selecting, through shortlisting, a range of renewable PET membranes to replace the python skin that was used for the original, older model in order to meet the primary goal of environmental protection, and redesigning the sound box through a scientific method of calibration to greatly enhance the physical functions of the instruments.

In remodelling the gaohu, erhu and zhonghu, the main emphasis is on the expansion of their physical capabilities while preserving their traditional timbre and mode of performance. As for the gehu and the bass gehu, it is to re-create bowed ethnic instruments suitable for use in a modern Chinese orchestra in order to achieve an overall orchestral sound. The entire set of vibrating membrane string instruments has a range of six octaves that blend well with each other, while the volume is larger by one-third when compared with the traditional model. The result is an unprecedented breakthrough in the overall orchestral voice, in terms of nuances, texture, body, depth and volume. It has the typical tonal appeal of the Chinese huqin yet with enriched expressiveness and compelling qualities. The result is the opening up of new dimensions for Chinese music on the whole.

The research and development process of the first generation of Eco-Huqins took place between 2005 and 2009. The second generation is now in full force of consolidating. As a cultural ambassador of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra has a busy performing schedule and is expected to maintain a high standard at all times. Product testing and the artists’ virtuosity have been, therefore, understandably under tremendous stress. Thanks to the support of the Council, the experience, acumen and adventurous spirit of the Artistic Director, the unreserved facilitation of the Executive Director, and the dedicated teamwork of all at HKCO in terms of repeated testing of the new products and offering of suggestions for improvement. These instruments have been played in over a thousand concert performances at home and abroad. They are the product of a creative cultural industry in Hong Kong, and the research leading to fruition is in tandem with the ecological trends of our time. They are representative of our unyielding spirit to innovate in order to reach the twin goals of environmental protection and artistic excellence. With the growing number of users, their influence is also increasing in leaps and bounds, and being felt in all parts of the world. In short, they are rewriting the world’s opinion of Chinese orchestral music.

Although we see the success of the reform project so far, we must bear in mind that the road to final fruition is still long. As the Book of Changes famously states, ‘Just as the heavens have their ways of self-rejuvenation, the superior man ought never to rest in his self-improvement.’ We shall continue to work towards our goal.
Yuen Shi Chun
Research Fellow, Research and Development Department
Research & Development Officer (Musical Instruments)
Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra
6 May, 2014

For more information, please contact us at (852) 3185 1600 or inquires@hkco.org



The Hexagonal ‘Flattened-tube’ Gaohu in the HKCO Eco-Huqin Series


Background

In 2014, when the second generation of the HKCO Eco-Huqin Series (Eco-Huqin 2) fully replaced the traditional huqins in the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra, innovative programming with new compositions and arrangements was launched in tandem.  Examples included a concert featuring bass string instruments, ‘Fusion – A Gehu Ensemble Concert’, and another, featuring a string quartet, ‘String Stories I’. Unlike the acoustical configuration of a section in a full-size orchestra, the instrumentation for ensemble groups deployed one piece for one voice, and thus a new frontier in music was formed. It was a daunting challenge to the composers, arrangers, players as well as the instruments’ deliverables per se. The new compositions for ensemble were chosen for their complexity in musical structure, distinct contrastive acoustic variations, great virtuosity in playing, and absolute precision in transition between instruments to maintain the same volume. All these were necessary to achieve balance and harmony for ensemble effect. In order to foray into new musical realms and maintain a highly competitive edge, the five groups in HKCO’s string section formed, out of their own accord, eight ensembles of various combinations, and started practicing feverishly. After I heard their rehearsals for over a hundred times, I arrived at the following conclusion: our string instruments are in the membrano-chordophone* system, and have their own attributes and therefore, limitations. With the ensemble repertoire, there is an even more stringent demand for high quality production of sounds and consummate techniques. Therefore, string instruments for ensemble playing have to be continually improved, or continue to achieve breakthroughs in order to achieve higher levels. With this as goal, I spent three years experimenting until I finally developed the ‘hexagonal flattened-tube gaohu’, coded ‘HKCO 3 Gaohu’.

Characteristics of the new product
The ‘hexagonal flattened-tube gaohu’ is designed as a resolution to timbral transitions.  The front of the sound box, which is PET mounted, is in a flattened hexagonal shape, while the back with latticed openings is in the regular hexagonal shape. The volume inside is similar to that of the Eco-Gaohu. Such a structural design is able to achieve a tone colour that is somewhere between the Eco-Erhu and the Eco-Gaohu, but still closer to the erhu
except that it is an extension of the higher register of the latter. As a result, this new gaohu can ‘bridge’ with the erhu smoothly and naturally, without any jarring effect. In terms of range and tuning, it is similar to the Eco-Gaohu, but in terms of playing techniques and actual touch, it is closer to the Eco-Erhu. When it is added to the erhu, zhonghu and gehu to form a quartet, there is better acoustic harmony. As a regular feature in an ensemble, this new member blends well with the Eco-Huqin family and enhances its depth, robustness, volume, integration, solidness and range in overall terms.

* Eco-Huqin series uses a skin as mount, hence the term ‘membrano-chordophone’.

Yuen Shi Chun
Research Fellow, Research and Development Department
Research & Development Officer (Musical Instrument)
27 February, 2018
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