"Reed-pipes are indispensable to the Miaos."
The Miaos' musical instruments are mainly pipe and percussion instruments. Pipe instruments are: reed pipe, vast bobbin, night vertical bamboo, sisters' vertical bamboo and bamboo flute. Percussion instruments are: bronze drum, wood drum and bronze gone. Among them, reed pipe is the most popular and characteristic instrument. When in festivals, auspicious days, weddings, building new houses, and welcoming honorable guests, people play reed pipes while singing and dancing. The saying "Reed-pipes are indispensable to the Miaos" has existed since the ancient times.
Reed pipe is a kind of pipe instrument. It is usually composed of three parts: the pipe, the cup-shaped body and the reed. Commonly used ones are installed with six pipes. The surface of the pipes are holes for pressing sound, the lower part is installed with bronze reeds, and pipes are inserted into a rectangle cup-shaped wood or gourd, with one sound in each pipe. One bamboo pipe is put on 2-3 pipes as a resonant pipe. Reed pipe has different types according to the length of the pipes. Small ones are only ten centimeters long, and big ones can be 3-4 meters long. After being reformed, the pipes can be increased to over ten to twenty pieces, and the sound range is much wider. Not only Miao music in different places, but also popular songs can be played with it.
The timbre of reed pipe is very bright, simple and vigorous. It can be used on solo and ensemble of two or more instruments. But it is often played as accompany of reed-pipe dance among the Miao people since ancient times.
Reed-pipe dance has a long history and the most representative dance of the Miaos. "The Song History" records that "one person played the gourd reed-pipeĦ several generations danced together mildly, and stepped on the ground to the rhythm." It is popular in different places.
Reed-pipe dance in the Southeastern Guizhou is divided into lined dance and step dance. In lined dance, players hold reed pipes, stand in line and dance while turning around with the big pipe player as the axis. While dancing, they always keep the line straight. Girls are arranged around out of the reed-pipe team and dance slightly to the rhythm of the reed pipes. Stepping dance is that two persons play a pair of pipes of the same size together and lead the dance. Dancers circle around and follow the leaders.
The stepping hall dance of the Miaos in Rongshui, Guangxi Province is famous for its magnificent and grand sight. On the wide hall stepping level ground, dozens of reed pipes are played together, and hundreds or even thousands of people dance together.
Reed-pipe dance in the Western Guizhou, Yunnan and Sichuan is particularly characteristic. In additional to collective dance that everyone knows, there is a kind of dance, which focuses on performance and includes some acrobatic movements. It can be played by single, double, four or eight persons. For instance: in Yuanyang, Yunnan Province, the performer should climb up a flowery pole of several meters high while playing reed-pipe, pick the object and come down. When there are 1-2 meters left, he should turn a somersault downward while the sound of pipe can't stop, which is very breathtaking and makes one applaud. Other performances are: " standing upside down", "earthworm rolls on sand", " holding persons on shoulders", " getting over wooden bench", "turning a square table round", " walking on bamboo stick", " stepping on eggs", " rolling a bowl with water in it", etc.
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