Li Yinghai - Xiong Mao (The Panda)

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Li Yinghai: Xiong Mao

• No key signature
• LH chords, RH melody
• Fairly slow but RH has active rhythms
• 4/4 with irregular feel
• Occasional leaps beyond an octave
• Suitable for small hands

“Xiong mao” means panda, and the creature is very placid unless there is another panda nearby (they dislike contact with each other)!

Here is some footage of a giant panda at Edinburgh Zoo:

This short clip show typical panda activities, and if you mute the sound you will be able to imagine how the music of “Xiong mao” could be a soundtrack. Notice the tempo suggested by the panda pacing around. The bamboo they eat provides very little energy, so they don’t move very vigorously and they spend a lot of their waking hours eating.

The counting is tricky in bar 6-7 and 12-13, and also in bars 18-19. This is because the quaver-two-semiquaver-crotchet rhythm has become established and it comes as a surprise to place a longer note halfway through beat 3. Counting aloud is best, starting in quavers, so that the student gets a correct sense of how long it feels to wait on the minim. Having explored the counting in bar 6, proceed by including bars 5 and 7 either side, and especially ensure that the crotchets are not rushed in bar 7.

Dynamics are plentifully marked, and include some unexpected changes, so work on them at the same time as learning the notes: not just an A played with the thumb but a quiet A played with the thumb! Notice how the same musical ideas often get the same dynamic markings, e.g. bars 4-5, 10-11, 14, and 16-17. The dynamic range lies between p and mf but when the left hand moves lower there is a corresponding sense of the music thickening. Do not add to this by increasing the loudness, but enjoy the clever use of the piano’s resonances to give tonal variety in a tranquil mood.

Where the hands have to move around more, as in bars 16-19, it helps to inspect the positions of the notes on the keyboard, as the pairs of fifths are always the same notes in different octaves. This is a good opportunity to remind your student about perfect fifths - how they sound, and how they look on both the score and the keyboard – as there are so many of them in this piece.

No pedal is marked, but there is no harm in adding some if your student is technically ready and wishes to try it out. It can be added into specific chords, or used to wash the sound together, e.g. in bars 1-4 and 18-21 where a dreamy quality could be evoked. However, it would probably be too much in bars 13-16, over-enriching the sound.

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