Interview of Laurence Picken by Roger Blench and Carole Pegg, 3rd and 4th August, 1983

0:00:15 Reasons for interest in ethno-musicology; zoological research; Chinese ‘Book of Odes’, song texts; war service in blood transfusion laboratory in Cambridge; learnt  elementary Chinese

0:07:38 Sent to Chongqing to join Joseph Needham in Sino-British Science Cooperation Office; met Robert von Gulik of Netherland’s Embassy who knew of interest in Chinese music and arranged a concert on second night in Chongqing; next day found in introduction to playing the Chinese zither in a bookshop; introduced to a maker of zithers, an occupation that was considered suitable for a Chinese gentleman

0:12:17 18th Century zither demonstrated; music for the zither survives from 13th Century; extract from performance by Mr Zha Fuxi; learnt to play the zither; tableture supplied by teacher, no room for own interpretation of pieces

0:22:00 Seven string zither elitist instrument; tabletures written from 15th century;

0:24:50 Chengdu; played 8th century Tang seven stringed zither belonging to Mr Pai Te Sha???, who was later hounded by the Communists and committed suicide and his two Tang instruments were burned with him; met grandson and family c1981, Picken only link with Mr Pai who had invited him to be disciple after hearing him play; description of the Tang instrument; Mr Pai declined to give an interpretation of a piece for Robert von Gulik as he had never learnt it from his teacher

0:29:36 In Chongqing practised daily with the zither; tableture used only for learning a piece never played from

0:30:46 Didn’t attempt to learn to play any other instrument while in China but heard many; Chinese fiddle ‘erhu’ demonstrated

0:37:00 Chengdu, from a private museum, ‘xun’ pottery flutes, demonstrated by Roger Blench

0:40:50 Xmas 1945 back to Cambridge from China; expansion of teaching of Oriental Studies regardless of anyone wanting to take the courses; Gustaf Hallown, a refugee from Nazi Germany, taught in Gottingen and Arthur Waley used his library there when translating “Book of Songs” and as a result of Waley’s interest, Hallown was invited to Cambridge; lecturer in Chinese art and archaeology Prof. Zheng Dekun from West China Museum in Chengdu gave Picken bird-shaped whistle – demonstrated

0:43:50 Busy as a zoologist for some while then Prof. Edward Dent and Igon Relis??? asked him to be responsible for chapters on Far Eastern music in New Oxford History of Music which led to much reading and listening

0:44:57 Realized probably never get back to China; friend, Philip Ullyot, a biologist who had settled in Turkey, invited him to visit, wanted to research the migration of musical instruments  from West to China; only four instruments are native to China – 7 and 13 string zithers; vessel flute (‘xun’), free reed mouth organ; lutes, fiddles, flutes, reed pipes all of Central Asian origin; bowed instruments connected with horses and horse culture

0:50:11 In Istanbul investigated Turkish music; classical Turkish music; learnt to play the ‘kanun’ (triangular lute)

0:58:55 In Trebizond  heard the Black Sea fiddle which prompted him to look at Turkish folk music; sound of classical fiddle playing then Black Sea fiddle