Magazine, June 2003
culture gets a boost from a young musician
The ocarina (陶笛)
may be known as a "pottery flute" in Chinese.
However, it doesn't look anything like a classical flute.
Rather, it is shaped like the body of a small goose. In
fact, "ocarina" is Italian for "gosling",
a name given to it more than 100 years ago by Italian Giuseppe
Donati, who created the ocarina's shape and added tone holes.
tone holes are on the front of the instrument. There is
also a sound hole on the back. The ocarina is small enough
to be held in two hands with the fingers used to cover and
uncover the holes, while blowing through a mouthpiece. The
lowest tone is generated when all the tones holes are covered
and the sound hole is uncovered. The tone becomes higher
as the tone holes are uncovered one by one.
the origins of the ocarina are somewhat unclear, it appears
to be related to a number of similarly-shaped instruments
that developed separately in most of the world's great civilizations.
For example, in China an egg-shaped instrument has six tone
holes and dates back some 7,000 years.
itself has not had an ocarina culture—until now.
Twenty-seven-year-old musician You Xue-zhi (游學志
orㄚ志) has taken it upon himself to build one. Before
he became acquainted with the ocarina, You played
the erhu. About four years ago, while interested in
learning to play more Chinese traditional instruments,
he went to Kaohsiung to study under Kuo Ching-jung
(郭慶榮), a respected traditional instruments instructor.
It was from Kuo that You received his first ocarina.
was immediately fascinated by its small size and beautiful
tones. As he began researching the ocarina, he found
that in Taiwan it is mostly thought of as a toy. Local
ocarina makers focus on creating attractive shapes
and colors not accurate tones.
search of ocarinas with accurate sound, You went to Japan
and other countries and collected many types of ocarinas
and ocarina albums.
In 2000, he began promoting the ocarina as a musical instrument
in Taiwan, teaching ocarina-playing techniques at elementary
and junior high schools in Taipei County. He then invited
23 of his best students to join him in recording Taiwan's
first-ever ocarina album, which was released earlier this
album, titled "Ocarina in Wonderland" (陶笛奇遇記),
is distributed by Wind Records (風潮) and contains 10 selections
played on the ocarina and accompanied by other more conventional
instruments such as the violin, guitar and clarinet. Two
of the songs on this album were composed by You. The CD
comes with a booklet that includes step-by-step instructions
on how to play the ocarina.
also worked with technicians in Taiwan to design ocarinas
with accurate pitch. These designs are sold in two "Ocarina
Yulinglong" stores that he helped to found in Yingge
and Jioufen, respectively.
You has been traveling around Taiwan, giving performances
on different types of ocarinas. These performances include
a wide repertoire, from bird calls to Christmas carols.
In between songs, he teaches the audience how to play the
mission is to help people connect with the ocarina and
his vision is for all people to play music. He stands
out in a crowd because he always has an ocarina with
him, which he plays whenever he has a free moment, even
when stopped at a red light. Noting that this instrument
has had a profound affect on his life, You invites everyone
to take up the ocarina to begin their own life-changing
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