Curiosities of Music - online book

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186                  CURIOSITIES OF MUSIC.
It is singular, however, that the noise of the gong, tamtam, trumpet, etc., are inseparable from all Chinese dramatic performances: although the noise is deafening, and the voices of the actors are sometimes drowned in spite of their shouting themselves hoarse, yet this pandemonium only gives tranquil delight to the Chinese spectator whether he be of high or low class. It is so extraordinary a fact that physiologists and anatomists have endeavored to prove that the cause is due to a peculiar formation of the Chinese ear.*
Certain it is that the Chinese are so passionately fond of the drama, that they will sometimes pass many hours in succession in this noisy entertain­ment.
There is a tremendous number of comedians in China; most of them are purchased in early infancy by the chiefs of tioupes, and by them trained in music, singing, declamation, pantomime, and dance. It is a species of slavery, not very unlike that of old Rome, but is not always life-long.
Some comedians, especially the chiefs, acquire large fortunes in the exercise of their calling, but the caste is so looked down upon, by the general public, and the facility of confiscating their for­tune is so great, that they seldom attempt to leave the profession, or make any display of their wealth, lest it should be seized under any pretext
• In like wanner physiologists at one time endeavored tc account fui the peculiar singing of the Tyrolese peasantry (called the " yodel ") by the theory that the Tyrolese throat was shaped differently from throat* in general. Anatomy exploded the ttmnttF&ua

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III