If one is allowed to attach this music to the broader literary world of yueh-fu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], then the attenuation of bell sounds shows us something about yueh-fu origins and textures.
It also signals a strong yueh-fu break from bells: poor Tu was simply objecting to being pulled from his rare bell skills and shunted to the party rooms.
In what follows, I look further into one such connection: namely, the fact that Hsun Hsu is treated in early sources as an innovator of the yueh-fu song and ensemble style.
For a thousand years Hsun Hsu has been considered a key actor in yueh-fu origins.
Egan sees a situation in which it was in fact well-known literati writers of yueh-fu (as the genre was later called) who were simply working through quasi-old lyrical texts and adapting their language, music, and intratextual tropes and allusions; and Owen has showed us that a large portion of what was being "classicized" was not even old.
(18) There has been some debate as to when the new songs (again, the flexible corpus that later was called yueh-fu) arose: it would seem Eastern Han.
As expected, our chief source for ensemble playing rests in the organizational methods and statements found in the early-sixth-century "Treatise on Music" by Shen Yueh, as well as the Sung-era Yueh-fu shih-chi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], which frequently glosses Shen's statements and culls important (some now lost) fifth- and sixth-century catalogs and remarks.
The only scholar that I know to have raised this point, Cheung Sai-bung [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Chang Shih-pin), reasons convincingly from passages in Chiu T'ang-shu's "Treatise on Music" that he correlates with the outline of P'ing, Ch'ing, and Se modal play that is given in the much later Yueh-fu shih-chi.
Further, as attested in the older sources inside Yueh-fu shih-chi, in Nan-pei-era China the modes were associated with practice pieces for multi-part ensemble performances.
I have shown so far that the new ensemble music associated with yueh-fu was being thought about as early as Eastern Han (in the context of court light-music), if one calls the topic scoring-prosody, and that it received special legitimacy under Ts'ao Jui (Wei emperor Ming).
The texts are drawn from the category that came to be known as "yueh-fu songs," a reference to the name of the Hah Dynasty Bureau of Music.
These categories include "Drumming Songs" and "Songs for the Short Pan-pipes and Naobell," evocative titles suggesting either performance practices quite distant from modern-day Chinese folk song or the input of musical professionals from the Yueh-fu. The importance of music to the songs is defined mainly by its absence: Birrell notes that irregular rhythms or "opaque" texts would presumably have made sense in a musical context.