words and music of Jay Chou’s “千里之外”
Longing. Longing for someone. Longing for the ones we love. That feeling we get when we lose or separate from our loved ones. It is a lingering and a wearing process, an emotion that causes heartache. It is a feeling that we know so well, but don’t know quite how to describe. We tell people that we miss our loved ones so much or even that life without our loved ones is pointless. But are these simplistic expressions enough for them to truly understand the experience we go through? Perhaps longing is such a complex experience that it cannot be solely illustrated in words. As complex as this experience is, Jay Chou, one of the most famous Taiwanese artists in Asia, brought together influential Chinese culture and words of metaphors in his song, “千里之外”, which translates as “Faraway”, to recreate an agonizingly beautiful experience that touches your heart. The first time I heard 千里之外, it caught my attention instantly. The song starts off with soft tappings on various tones of bells in a steady rhythm. The gentle rings set one in a mood of tranquility, implying the best period in a relationship, the stable stage. Just when one is enjoying this state of calmness, a combination of instruments cuts off the bells while the melody intensifies, as if signaling something is about to go wrong. The combination includes two main Chinese instruments, “èr hú” and “gǔ zhēng,” and a light set of drums in the background. “Er hú” is a two-stringed instrument that is often known as the “Chinese violin,” and “Gǔ zhēng” is an eighteen to twenty three-strings instrument with movable bridges. This unexpected change of music style, as we will later learn from the lyrics, foreshadows the separation of two lovers. Even though the sounds of two instruments are distinct, they blend harmoniously. Together, they create a sound effect that is clashing yet beautiful, like the experience of longing. Although other sounds such as the...
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