“A Frenchman played a beautiful piece of Japanese music on a Chinese instrument; music knows no boundaries”, FB Jiang observes in his YouTube comment on the first video in this article. The Frenchman is Eliott Tordo and the music is from the popular Anime series Inuyasha. I’ll get back to the musician and the music. To appreciate the video, it is perhaps more useful to know a little about the instrument, the Erhu, which is a versatile two-stringed Chinese fiddle.
Unusually, the horsehair of the bow runs between the strings, which are close together and effectively fingered as one string, and there is no fingerboard to press the strings against. Sound is produced by the strings vibrating python skin which is stretched over the small resonator box. The string closest to the player is usually tuned to D4 and the other string to A4 (a 5th up). Even with its simple design, the erhu can produce a wide range of sounds. Interested in hearing the Erhu? Here goes:
In the right hands, the Erhu produces a hauntingly beautiful sound, doesn’t it? A few more words about the instrument. As you’ve seen, the Erhu has a stick-like neck which is near vertical when played. The strings were traditionally twisted silk, but now tend to be metal. In China, the Erhu is classed as a Huqin instrument. Huqin means “barbarian” which indicates that the Erhu originated among the nomadic people on the periphery of the Chinese Kingdoms. Nowadays it is the most played huqin.
To Love’s End is a track from the anime series Inuyasha (167 episodes in the first series, 2002 -2004). The series was dubbed into English and ran on Cartoon Network. Two more series and four films followed. The scores were composed by Kaoru Wada, although songs by groups also featured. Manwithabrain90 observes “Besides Studio Ghibli, Inuyasha has the most hard-hitting and emotionally impacting anime OST music. Kaoru Wada is a genius.” On that cue let’s hear Eliott Tordo play a Studio Ghibli song:
For many young kids growing up in the West in the early twenty-first century, Inuyasha was their first exposure to anime. Slightly older children might have been lucky enough to see Princess Mononoke (1997). Princess Mononoke was the animated film that helped Studio Ghibli to become an international brand. Other Studio Ghibli films include Spirited Away (2021), My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Whisper of the Heart (1995). When it comes to animated films, Studio Ghibli is the bee’s knees. The above video is a cover of a track from the Princess Mononoke OST by Studio Ghibli’s favoured composer, Joe Hisaishi.
Eliott Tordo was a keyboard player and composer working as a music producer and an acoustic engineer until he discovered the Erhu in his twenties. It took him five years to master the instrument, but now he is best known as an Erhu player, and his social media posts have helped introduce the ancient instrument to new audiences. Since there were no Erhu players in France, Tordo taught himself to play by watching videos. Due to language barriers, he learnt by observation and practice. “There is a unique technique in playing the Erhu. It is mysterious and yet it was crucial for one to learn to play the Erhu,” Eliott has said.
Tordo now has 346K YouTube followers and his most popular upload, To Love’s End, our first video, has 8.2M views. The Chinese site People’s Daily Online states that “Under Eliott’s influence, a lot of French people started to learn about the Chinese instrument and pay attention to Chinese culture”. Tordo teaches students from France, the US, Canada, and other countries to play the Erhu. He teaches both online and in person.
To conclude, a couple of comments on To Love’s End from the Inuyasha OST. Joshua Jenkins says, “Goosebumps, the nostalgia. Can’t find the words for these emotions. Great work”. Ali-pg6xy records, “I stumbled on this after 10 years from watching Inuyasha and yes, I immediately cried…”.