If the music of yesterday urgently needs to be preserved, the technology of today; namely, the Internet, may give it a chance. Liu Qingyao, has seized this opportunity. Part of golden age of “network musicians”, she creates works at little cost and attracts large numbers of fans who love music but have few ways to enjoy it.
The market is big but the quality of work varies enormously. Good works lead to recommendations. Recommendations lead to hits. “I have asked the web editor. He told me that my work is great and according to the rules, my videos can be put on the recommendation lists”, said Liu, using her performance moniker when speaking with The Nanjinger, declining to be identified by her real name.
27-year-old lute player Liu has nearly 200,000 fans on Bilibili, making her one of the most influential musicians on the video-sharing platform that is widely used among young people. Her success reflects young people’s demand for music; modern, diversified, exquisite and beautiful. In doing so, she also may have inadvertently hit upon a way to preserve and popularise this kind of traditional music.
Liu started playing the traditional Chinese lute at age 5. She studied with three musicians from the Tianjin Conservatory of Music and the Central Conservatory of Music. Majoring in English and graduating from Nanjing University at 22, while a student Liu attended the Nanjing University Chinese Orchestra and performed around the world with its members.
After graduation, she become interested in raising her digital profile. In July of 2016, she started putting her lute videos online, using differing backgrounds according to the kinds of song. But an Internet existence has its perils. She has been berated with some opponents questioning the authenticity of her resume. Some accused her of buying fans to make herself appear more famous. Attacks on her appearance and character meant Liu stopped her online activities. She has since started again.
Yet again, her fame has resulted in her representing the government to visit more than 40 countries and regions for cultural performances. A photo of her playing the lute was printed on porcelain vases with the national bird of Suriname as presents for the Suriname government. As an exchange student at UC Berkeley, sensing the blend of East and West had a great impact; her experiences through her exchanges with the west let her treat music more objectively.
Liu says that Chinese audiences need to be more open to music. “Audiences need to accept (listen and understand) more music and create a better sharing environment”, she commented.
Once, when Liu performed for the president of Malta at the Maltese embassy in Beijing, a lute string broke. She was in no hurry to fit a new string and start playing again. There were no awkward moments and the performance finished well. “They enjoyed the music and accepted defects. Their attitude really impressed me”, she said. “Music is just a kind of impression and people don’t need to care too much about its forms, perfections and others more than music itself.” Liu believes music can be different, but no music is superior to others. “Music isn’t the main difference, the environment is,” she said.
“People should understand and have confidence in our culture. Music is objective but people’s thoughts are subjective. People’s attitudes are what is most important.”