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Nie Er

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Niè Ĕr

Biography

Niè Ĕr (14 February 1912, Kunming, Yunnan, China – 17 July 1935, Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan), born Nie Shouxin, courtesy name Ziyi, was a Chinese composer best known for March of the Volunteers, the national anthem of the People's Republic of China. In numerous Shanghai magazines he went by the English name George Njal.

Niè Ĕr 's ancestors were from Yuxi, Yunnan, in southwest China. From an early age Niè Ĕr displayed an interest in music. When he was young, he showed signs of musical talent. He was able to imitate the voices of people he knew, and almost any sound that entered his ears. Thus, people began to call him "Ears." Other than having well trained ears, Shouxin was also able to move each one of his ears, independent from the other. This earned him another nickname, Doctor Ears. Shouxin felt that his nickname is interesting and said that "Since friends give me one more ears, I will have one more ear from now on". Later on, he changed his name to be Niè Ĕr.

From 1918 he studied at the Kunming Normal School's Associated Primary School. In his spare time, he learned to play traditional instruments such as the dizi, erhu, sanxian, and yueqin, and became the conductor of the school's Children's Orchestra. In 1922 he entered the Private Qiushi Primary School (Senior Section), and in 1925 entered Yunnan Provincial Number One Combined Middle School. In 1927 he entered Yunnan Provincial Number One Normal School. At school, he participated in the Book Club, and organised the Nine-Nine Music Society, which performed within the school and outside. During this time, he learned to play the violin and the piano.

In June 1931, Niè Ĕr entered the "Mingyue Musical Drama Society" as a violinist. In July 1932 he published A Short Treatise on Chinese Song and Dance, in which he criticized the Drama Society's president, Li Jinhui, as a result of which he was forced to leave the society. Prior to joining the Lianhua Film Studio on November 1932, he took part in shaping the Bright Moonlight Song and Dance Troupe. He later joined the musical group of the Friends of the Soviet Union Society. He also organized the Chinese Contemporary Music Research Group, which participated in the Leftist Dramatist's Union. In 1933, Niè Ĕr joined the Communist Party of China.

In April 1934, Niè Ĕr joined the Pathé Records and managed the musical section. In the same year he founded the Pathé National Orchestra. This was a prolific year for Niè Ĕr in terms of musical output. In April 1935, Nie Er went to Japan to meet his elder brother in Tokyo. There, he composed the March of the Volunteers, which would later become the national anthem of China.

Nie Er wrote a total of 37 pieces in his life, all in the two years before his death. A significant proportion of these songs reflected working class life and struggles. He often collaborated with lyricist Tian Han.

On July 17, 1935, he died while swimming in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan, under suspicious circumstances. He was twenty-three.


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