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Lives in Chinese Music

Lives in Chinese Music

EDITED BY Helen Rees
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Lives in Chinese Music
    Book Description:

    Until recently, most scholarly work on Chinese music in both Chinese and Western languages has focused on genres, musical structure, and general history and concepts, rather than on the musicians themselves. This volume breaks new ground by focusing on individual musicians active in different amateur and professional music scenes in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Chinese communities in Europe. _x000B__x000B_Using biography to deepen understanding of Chinese music, contributors present richly contextualized portraits of rural folk singers, urban opera singers, literati, and musicians on both geographic and cultural frontiers. The topics investigated by these authors provide fresh insights into issues such as the urban-rural divide, the position of ethnic minorities within the People's Republic of China, the adaptation of performing arts to modernizing trends of the twentieth century, and the use of the arts for propaganda and commercial purposes. _x000B__x000B_The social and political history of China serves as a backdrop to these discussions of music and culture, as the lives chronicled here illuminate experiences from the pre-Communist period through the Cultural Revolution to the present. Showcasing multiple facets of Chinese musical life, this collection is especially effective in taking advantage of the liberalization of mainland China that has permitted researchers to work closely with artists and to discuss the interactions of life and local and national histories in musicians' experiences._x000B__x000B_Contributors are Nimrod Baranovitch, Rachel Harris, Frank Kouwenhoven, Tong Soon Lee, Peter Micic, Helen Rees, Antoinet Schimmelpenninck, Shao Binsun, Jonathan P. J. Stock, and Bell Yung.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09225-1
    Subjects: History, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Writing Lives in Chinese Music
    (pp. 1-20)

    Musicological traditions differ in the extent to which they write the individual into their texts. At one extreme, both scholarly and popular writings on the Western art music tradition stress a parade of great composers, conductors, and performers, the most admired of whom have acquired heroic status. Similarly, few overviews of Indian classical music omit mention of renowned performers acknowledged as major shapers of their traditions. Today, the appeal of much popular music on all continents depends on larger-than-life personalities, whose life histories become interwoven into all discussions of their art. At the other extreme, partly as a reaction against...


    • 1. Zhao Yongming: Portrait of a Mountain Song Cicada
      (pp. 23-44)

      The bus trip from Shanghai to the heart of Wujiang county took us two and a half hours. Under a gray winter sky we drove along concrete roads past rice paddies, ponds and lakes, and scattered farmhouses and villages. The area was flat, but at certain points cone-shaped hills arose like solitary lumps on the horizon. We crossed rivers and canals, where Chinese junks and cargo boats made of concrete progressed slowly. Some of the motor boats on the water emitted a thick black smoke.

      Up to the 1950s—as one bus passenger told us—many towns in this area...

    • 2. Shao Binsun and Huju Traditional Opera in Shanghai
      (pp. 45-62)

      This is a life story of a singer and actor in the traditional opera genre of Shanghai, a music-theatrical style with a history of some two hundred years and nowadays namedhuju(see further Stock 2003). In a paper published in 1980, Jeff Titon pointed out that the involvement of a researcher and research agenda means that no biography can be treated as uninflected factual record. Instead, the life story is a “self-contained fiction” invented as the fieldworker and musical subject explore positions and perspectives together. Since biographical writing is inherently fictive, Titon goes on, we can overtly exploit that...


    • 3. Tsar Teh-yun at Age 100: A Life of Qin Music, Poetry, and Calligraphy
      (pp. 65-90)

      The seven-string zitherqinand its music are unique in Chinese musical culture.¹ Its long and uninterrupted history of at least two millennia is attested by archaeological and literary evidence. While many instruments in the world are as old, few can claim the unbroken continuity of the qin tradition, a continuity that underscores its generally conservative nature and retains much that is archaic, including the repertory, notational system, performance practice, and social context.

      Qin music has always been associated intimately and exclusively with China’s literati and is identified closely with the refinement and sophistication of this elite social class. Until...

    • 4. Gathering a Nation’s Music: A Life of Yang Yinliu
      (pp. 91-116)

      In early November 1999, Chinese music scholars in China and from overseas gathered at Jiuhua shanzhuang in Changping, north of Beijing, for an international conference commemorating the hundredth anniversary of Yang Yinliu (1899–1984), regarded by many as the founder of twentieth-century musicology in China. While the conference was intended to highlight Yang’s singular contributions to Chinese musicology, it also honored the achievements and contributions of other scholars in the field, in particular the uniquely entwined career of his cousin and lifelong colleague Cao Anhe (1905–2004).¹

      An occasion such as this teaches us that we each have our own...


    • 5. Grace Liu and Cantonese Opera in England: Becoming Chinese Overseas
      (pp. 119-144)

      The front page of theLiverpool Daily Poston Saturday, September 24, 2005, shows Grace Liu wearing a black Western-style jacket, both hands positioned in a conventional Chinese opera stance as she poses in front of Eurowines in Liverpool’s Chinatown. The header on the front page reads: “Off-license owner’s secret passion,” followed by “Chinese opera a passion for busy businesswoman: Campaigner Grace singing in London festival” as the article continues on page three (Khaleeli 2005b). This article follows a report on Tuesday, August 30, 2005, in theLiverpool Echoabout Grace’s role in leading negotiations between a group of shop...

    • 6. Abdulla Mäjnun: Muqam Expert
      (pp. 145-172)

      The Uyghurs might be introduced as one of China’s big family of fifty-five minority nationalities (Weiwu’er zu,alongside the Tibetans, Mongols, Yi, Hui . . . ), or alternatively as one of the Central Asian nationalities (alongside the Kazakhs, Kyrgyz, Tajik, Turkmen, and Uzbeks), the only one that does not possess its own independent nation-state. There is truth in both of these statements, and both are controversial. Culturally we might best regard the Uyghurs as a Central Asian people, although they today live mainly within the borders of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in the large desert and mountain...

    • 7. Compliance, Autonomy, and Resistance of a “State Artist”: The Case of Chinese-Mongolian Musician Teng Ge’er
      (pp. 173-212)

      Teng Ge’er is a musician of Mongolian origin who lives in Beijing and is known all over China for his many pop, rock, and folk songs, especially those about Mongolia, many of which he not only performs but also wrote and composed.¹ Since 1985 he has been a member of China’s Central Nationalities Song and Dance Troupe (Zhongguo zhongyang minzu gewutuan,hereafter CNSDT), one of the country’s many highly politicized official cultural organizations, which since its establishment in 1952 has served as a showcase of the state’s policy toward its ethnic minorities.² Like many other artists who belong to state...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 213-216)
  9. Index
    (pp. 217-223)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 224-225)