Chinese classical music often tells a story but has no lyrics, and traditional pipa music is no different. Traditional pipa music can be categories in many different ways based on tempo or structures. The most common classification is the one that based on musical style and artistic expression, and traditional pipa music is then divided into three categories, namely Wuqu (Martial tune), WenQu (lyrical tune), and WenWuQu (Lyrical and martial tune).
WuQu refers to music that depicts a story without lyrics. The characteristic of WuQu is that it often incorporates various fingering techniques that produce vivid sound effects to bring the audience to the story. Examples would be Ambush from All Sides and The Unarming Conqueror.
Here is the video of my performing The Unarming Conqueror at the Bowers Museum in 2011.
WenQu, as its English translation suggests, is music that are often lyrical and calm. Its focus, instead of telling you a story, is usually to express the feeling of the subject and paint an audio picture of the beautiful scenery. Examples would be High Moon and River Flowers in Moonlight.
Here is the video of my performing River Flowers in Moonlight with Ms. Jillian Liao (GuZheng) at the Bowers Museum in 2011.
WenWuQu, as its name suggests, refers to music that is a combination of WuQu and WenQu. Although it is also sometimes called DaQu(Grand Opus), the composition does not necessarily have to be long in length. The music is often refreshing and vivid because of its unrestricted uses of techniques from both WuQu and WenQu. An example would be Spring Sun on Snow
Audio file: Spring Sun on Snow
from album Restoration – Wan Yeung Pipa Music (2010)
Spring Sun on Snow is a famous piece of pipa WenWuQu (Lyrical and martial tune), which is unrestrictive on the techniques choices. Through its lively melodies and driving force of rhythm, the piece depicts the scene of spring reanimating the land.