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Chinese New Music as a Politicized Language

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註冊時間: 2002 Jun 23
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文章功能 文章功能   引用 Zhiqi 引用  發表回覆回覆 點擊鏈接返回原帖 主題: Chinese New Music as a Politicized Language
    發表:  2003 Jan 05 10:56pm
Chinese New Music as a Politicized Language:
Orthodox Melodies and Dangerous Tunes
Barbara Mittler
University of Heidelberg
It may seem odd to some readers of this publication to find an essay focusing on instrumental music in a working paper series that contains the phrase "Language and Politics in Modern China" in its title. For understandable reasons, what most people expect to find (and thus far have found) in the pages of this series are works that analyze the content of written texts or speeches as opposed to scores or concert performances. These readers might reasonably expect to come across some essays that focus on the story-telling function of operative compositions or that analyze the lyrics of songs, as is the case with Vivian Wagner's contribution to this number. It is taken for granted, after all, that words put to music or linked to dramatic narratives often have a political content, especially in highly politicized settings such as the People's Republic of China (PRC), Taiwan, and (at least at present) Hong Kong. It is easy to imagine how lyrics can either buttress or challenge official ideologies, and many China specialists interested in the contemporary period are familiar with works that attempt to trace the links between the words used in songs and either party lines or dissident movements, such as studies of PRC rock-and-roll by Geremie Barme, Andrew Jones, and Andreas Steen, or the work presently being done by Johannes Goeth on Taiwan's politicized pop scene. 1 China specialists in various disciplines are also likely to have encountered in their readings scholarly works that claim operatic storylines can provide a useful window into political shifts or struggles, as well as into cultural norms and patterns of social relations.2
The case here may appear at first sight to be somewhat different, however, as the examples of "Chinese New Music" employed here are all taken from the instrumental repertoire of this music. This is deliberate but perhaps paradoxical choice. Even though there are no lyrics or plots to scrutinized for hidden or overt messages, and even though the works under examination are ones typically seen as belonging to an essentially asemantic art form that would seem by definition incapable of communicating political messages, it will soon become apparent that these compositions can indeed by analyzed in a fashion appropriate to a series of this sort.
The reader may wonder how Chinese New Music tunes can be thought of as speaking an official language or a language of political opposition. How, in fact, can such compositions be said to speak a language of any kind? These questions are likely to seem perplexing, at least to those China specialists who are not musicologically inclined, for three reasons. First, there have been relatively few attempts to date to highlight the political implications of Chinese melodies as opposed to lyrics. Second, in those comparatively rare cases when tunes have been analyzed closely, the genre under scrutiny has still usually been one that has close ties to dramatic or festive forms that provide at least some words or narrative to go along with the music, as is the case, for example, with yangge songs and model operas. 3 Third, the main intended audience for many works that focus on Chinese New Music as a genre has been musicologists as opposed to scholars whose main interest is in modern Chinese politics or culture. 4 In this paper, by contrast, my primary goal is to engage the attention of China specialists as opposed to music specialists.
I wish to show that even though it has been said that "nothing inherent in rates of vibration causes the major third to be felt or not felt as a consonance, parallel fifths as diabolical, dissonances as tragic or attractive," governments of all colors have claimed (and continue to claim) that they are able to put such things as the racial or class character, that is aspects of the political character, of instrumental music into definite words. 5 Music, in many ways the most abstract of the arts, appears to be, by its very nature, a particular threat to and a (potentially negative) commentary on the political environment.
The evidence I will be treating to make this statement will not be restricted to tunes but will include written documents and speeches, too?in this case mostly ones that comment on the political significance of music and seek to explain why some compositions are politically acceptable and others are not, or ones that were issued in conjunction with musical performances to try to explain to audiences what the tunes mean.
In discussing the politics of tunes, I am locating my arguments in sinological rather than musicological frameworks in the hope of thus making a convincing case for the inclusion of a piece on such an unlikely subject as music in a series dealing primarily with language. 6 China's new instrumental music is, or perhaps rather becomes, a language of politics: If in many different times and places politicians and others in positions of authority have claimed that certain specific melodies, or indeed even whole genres of composition (such as "jazz") or types of rhythmic patterns (such as "disco" beats), were (lyrics or no lyrics) "good" or "bad" for the morale or morality of a given population, this means that, at least in the minds of some who hold power, a melody is (or at least can be) a medium just as capable as a slogan of communicating official or oppositional messages.
Keeping these points in mind, the goal of this paper is to focus on exactly how official distinctions between uplifting or "correct" and degenerative or "dangerous" New Music tunes have been drawn and continue to be drawn in three contemporary Chinese polities: the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Defining Chinese New Music as instrumental pieces that draw heavily upon compositional styles associated with (Western) "classical" traditions and are the work of people who were educated and based primarily in one of these three polities, the paper asks questions such as the following: What kind of criteria are used in the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong to determine the political content of New Music compositions? Is it most useful to treat the approach that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) takes toward this art form as reflective of the fact that this is a Marxist-Leninist regime, or of the fact that during its Yan'an period it developed a unique vision of the political aspects of aesthetic choices? Or, in contrast to both of these possibilities, does it make most sense to view the CCP's and the Guomindang's (GMD) and perhaps even the Hong Kong government's treatment of New Music as a variation on a distinctively Chinese theme, which has deep roots in a Confucian tradition shared by official arbiters of taste based on opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait?
Varieties of Chinese New Music
If we take seriously Wang Meng's comment that modern Chinese literature and the arts are often considered "footnotes to policies," it is worth considering the possibility that government policies would have considerable influence on the development of all art forms. 7 If this is the case, one would expect to find very different kinds of New Music being written and played in the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. In short, one might expect that, in different Chinese polities, different Chinese musics?including different New Musics?would have emerged. My own sense, however, is that this has not been the case.
One way to illustrate this point is with a brief comparison of two sets of arbitrarily selected compositions, the first of which contains three works for Western instruments from the 1960s, and the second of which is made up of three more recent works for Chinese instruments. Each set is comprised of a piece by a composer based in the PRC, a composer based in Taiwan, and a composer based in Hong Kong. Taking up the former set first, even a casual listener will notice that there are a number of striking similarities, especially when it comes to compositional style, linking "The Long March Symphony" by Ding Shangde (born 1911; based in the PRC; piece composed between 1959 and 1962), "Violin Sonata" by Lam Doming (born 1935; based in Hong Kong; piece composed in 1963), and "Sketch of Rainy Harbor" by Ma Shuilong (born 1939; based in Taiwan; piece for piano composed in 1969). Although each composer has his distinctive style (Ding favors brassy orchestration, for example, while Ma is known for his lyricism), and although each composer is writing in this case in a different genre (symphony, sonata, and character piece, respectively) and using different combinations of instruments (grand orchestra, violin and piano-duo, and piano solo, respectively ) it is doubtful that someone who did not know the identities of the composers in question would be able to say which of the pieces was written in the PRC, which in the Republic of China (ROC), and which in Hong Kong. Stylistically, all three pieces employ the musical language of what I would term "pentatonic romanticism," a homophonic, virtuoso style derived from the compositional techniques of nineteenth-century Western virtuoso writing.
Turning to sample compositions for Chinese instruments from the 1980s and 1990s, a similar point about the difficulty of linking style to polity can be made. The three pieces I have chosen for the sample are "Nanxiangzi" by Tan Dun (born 1957; based in the PRC; piece for zheng and xiao composed in 1984), "Ling-Kai II" by Tsang Yipfat (born 1952; based in Hong Kong; piece for dizi, sheng, pipa, sanxian, zheng, and Chinese percussion composed in 1986); and "Ji" by Wu Dinglian (born 1950; based in Taiwan; piece for Chinese winds, pipa, zheng, percussion, and erhu composed in 1991). 8Here again we find three pieces that each show traces of the individual tastes and preferences of a particular composer and of what he wished to express through composing Chinese New Music, even as all of them employ elements associated with one distinct style, that of the Western avantgarde, with its characteristic emphasis on sound rather than melodic structure and on rhythmic effects rather than regular meter. Most significantly for our purposes here, what we also find, as in the first case, is that the kind of government under which the composers in question live would seem to have relatively little influence on the sort of tunes they compose?a point that could be made about many other creators of works of Chinese New Music. What all of the composers listed above and others like them have in common is that each is reacting in a certain?and I would argue distinctively Chinese?way to the Western musical challenge, and this similarity outweighs the difference of political system. I would also argue?and this brings us to a key theme of this paper?that the various composers alluded to above have something else in common: namely, each is working in a context in which official views about the political nature of music are more alike than different.
Politics and Music: Traditional Chinese Views
The intricate relationship between Chinese politics and the arts, and music in particular, is based on age-old concepts described in Confucian canonical texts. Music is presented in these classical Chinese works as a model of the macrocosm (disorder in music is said to have indicated disorder in the world) and the very forms of the art are described as representative of political structure. 9The Yueji puts it thus: "shengyin zhi dao yu zhengtong ye" (the type of music [of a country] is related to type of government of a country). The Liji carries this idea further: "We must discriminate sounds in order to know the airs, the airs in order to know the music: and the music in order to know the government. Having attained to this, we are fully provided with the methods of good order." 10Peace and order in a land is thus seen as dependent on peace and order in its music, and chaos in music is assumed to lead to chaos in the state. Looking again to the Yueji, we find the comment "Shi luan, ze li te er yue yin" (in times of chaos the rites are vulgar and the music is immoral). Moving from abstract principals to details, these texts and others classics such as the Shujing suggest that one of the things a wise emperor had to do was make sure that the huangzhong?the "yellow bell" that was the basis of the Chinese twelve-tone scale?was correctly tuned. Its adjustment and accuracy alone would, they claimed, ensure the welfare of the state. It was further suggested that the emperor should collect folksongs to enquire about the condition of his country, and that he would have these songs refined and improved in a music ministry, the yuefu. 11The resulting orthodoxy, this zheng (correct or upright) music, would then be taught to the people again to educate them.
The traditional assumptions about the didactic function and power of orthodox music to uphold the state find their continuation in the conceptions of twentieth-century politicians. Xu Yi (born 1963), a female composer from the PRC, once said "since Confucius' time they have tried to regulate music and the arts. As for the present government, their methods are similar, and even if they say they are against Confucius, in reality their method is Confucian. 12Mao, in his Yan'an Talks emphasizes the fact that all art speaks for a certain class and societal structure and hence echoes the traditional conception of music being the microcosmic picture of macrocosmic governmental and world structures. For example, at one point he makes the following statement: "Literature and art are subordinate to politics and yet in turn they exert enormous influence on it." 13Interestingly, we find Nationalist party leader Jiang Jieshi, the Chairman's longtime political adversary, making a very similar point in various texts. A collection of aphorisms of the late president of Taiwan includes the following comments:
good music can mould one's character. . . . Music is important not only in the cultivation of individual character, but can also play a part in the rise and fall of a country. 14
Since such is the importance of music to the physical and mental development of the individual, the state cannot, for the sake of our national culture and the education of our citizens, afford to ignore it by any means . . . music is certainly one of the most efficacious methods that may be used in civic education. 15
The language with which the use of music and the arts in general as politico-didactic tools is advocated is hence surprisingly similar to the traditional model both in Taiwan and the PRC. Manipulative music is, in this view, supposed to uplift?or as W. H. Auden put it, "to fill a dwarf's ears with sforzandos"?and to create feelings of strength and confidence. 16Music becomes, in this case, a weapon in an everpresent battle, and in the struggle between the PRC and Taiwan it is one that is used in very similar ways by political opponents, as part of a symbolic armory that also includes literature and theater. In the 1950s, an official pronouncement coming from one side of the Taiwan Strait made the following claim: "One does not write for mere pleasure or entertainment. If there is any truth at all in the saying that the pen is mightier than the sword, this weapon of the artists and writers should certainly be wielded against the Communists for all its worth." 17 In the 1960s, meanwhile, a comparable text from the other side of the strait argues thus: "We are music students, our weapon would be music." 18
These quotations show that even today orthodox (zheng) music is used as an instrument of government in different parts of China. Traditionally, the emperor not only had to insure the spread and teaching of orthodox music, he also had to be careful to ward off the influences of heterodox and thus dangerous music. Then, as now, what was "new" and "foreign" was often particularly prone to be deemed dangerous in one sense or another. Such music, in ancient writings synonymous with the music of the states of Zheng and Wei, was described in the Yueji as follows:
The tunes of Cheng are cleverly made and corrupt the mind. . . . The tunes of Wei are fast and excited and confuse the mind. All these tunes lead the mind toward lechery and are harmful, therefore they cannot be used in the sacrificial rites. In [this] the new music the dancers enter and retire stooped without any order. The music is noisy and deafens the ear unceasingly. . . . This music does not deserve to be discussed and cannot be linked with the music of ancient times. This is the way of modern music.19
Traditionally, then, dangerous tunes, heterodox music is modern music, musica nova. This "new music" (but not New Music in the more specialized sense described earlier) is feared for its corrupting power and condemned for its noise. Its ability to excite is contrasted with the Confucian ideal of restraint?a value that was said to characterize zheng music?and it is said to inspire lecherous conduct. Interestingly, contemporary Chinese governments and their music critics describe the dangerous tunes of current times in a very similar vein; and the vocabulary used in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the PRC to describe the sounds of the New Music they are faced with is almost identical. Consider, for example, the following PRC evaluation of the modernist school of 1959, which is similar in tone and content to vehement 1960s critiques in Hong Kong and Taiwan of the musicial activities of Doming Lam and Xu Changhui, respectively:
Most of their music [that of modernist composers] uses dissonances or even all noise as sources. Therefore, it is not possible to hear any normal human emotion and personality in their music. . . . If the modern reactionary music is not thoroughly criticized and is let free, it can bring the art of music into total disaster. 20
Here, the same crisis scenario as in the traditional context is applied: just as in the condemnation of the music of Zheng and Wei, one finds the claim that modern reactionary music "cannot be used in the sacrificial rites" for it would bring disaster to the art of music and?by implication?to the country. Just like the music of Zheng and Wei, it is wangguo zhi yin (the sounds of a "country doomed to perish").
The condemnation of the "lechery" in New Music, legitimised in tradition, too, finds a frequent echo in modern campaigns against yellow (pornographic) music, huangse yinyue. We find Jiang Jieshi contending, from one side of the Taiwan Strait:
In spite of the beneficial influence exerted by the national anthem and college and military songs, however, it cannot be gainsaid that the delirious effects of [those new] commercialized theatrical performances . . . are enormous. This poises a grave danger to the physical and mental health of the citizens. 21
Chu Lan, from the other side of the strait, but in a similar vein, mentions the "modernist school, fauvism and strip-tease" in one breath, and then goes on to claim that "the essence of this numerous and varied junk is to poison and benumb the minds of the people." 22
On both sides of the Taiwan straits, composers are scolded for the supposed seediness of their music. For example, Tan Dun (born 1957) had his famous composition, "On Taoism" (1985), for voice, bass clarinet, contrabassoon, and orchestra denounced as a work that showcased his perverted sexual dreams, while Zhang Huili (born 1956) found that her vocal composition entitled "Qingren" (The Lover) could not pass government censorship. Not only the professed need for correct music but also the definition of dangerous tunes in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the PRC is all too similar. Even today and in all parts of China, the advocates of New Music are seen as a dubious anarchist force whose compositions could, if not kept in check and able to gain a wide audience, eventually topple the government. Comparative cases come to mind?such as the apocalyptic visions of rock-and-roll "noise" destabilizing the morals, and by extension the polities, of Western countries that were sometimes conjured up, especially in the 1950s and 1960s, by conservative critics and radical fans of the genre in the United States and Europe. But the Chinese denunciations of New Music rely so heavily on traditional imagery that they are best understood as novel variations on an enduring Confucian theme.
Why exactly is this music thought to be so dangerous? How do the critics know that Tan Dun was having perverted sexual dreams when writing his piece? To return to an earlier point, isn't New Music an asemantic art, which does not speak a political language? How then can it be construed as speaking the language of the opposition? When hearing a piece of music presenting two themes, one set in the tonic, the next in the dominant, one smooth and in legato, the other in harsh staccato notes, what can one conclude except that it presents a schoolbook exposition of a movement in sonata form? To make the kinds of claims that are often heard in condemnations of a particular piece as "reactionary" or dangerous?such as saying that the legato theme in the composition just described stands for the Taiwanese government trying to flatter and win over the militarist and strong CCP in the stacatto theme?is to provide an explanation that is, to say the least, not self-evident in the sound of the melody. Nevertheless, as Tan Dun once said, in the contemporary Chinese context, "The worst thing to do politicially is to write music. Because they think all you write is a political statement against them." If a symphony is "nothing but the syntax of its sounds," as one scholar has put it, why does the meaning of Chinese symphonies become the subject of heated political debates? 23
The quotations from the Li Ji, Yueji, and Shujing given above help us begin to frame answers to these kinds of questions, but another classical text may move us even further in this direction. In the "Great Preface" or "Daxu" to the Book of Poetry or Shijing, it is said that poems can be used for edification from the top to the bottom but also (and most importantly) for criticism from the bottom to the top. The very form of poetry, its artistic style of considerable semantic complexity makes it a means of remonstrance, of feng. 24 The more intricate and complicated the symbolism of a poem, the higher its assumed critical content. 25 Music as an asemantic art hence becomes (in this view) the most powerful, remonstrating, and possibly the most subversive art. This is the reason why music is credited with the ability to form an independent level of communication in a non-political, and only thus political, discourse. For not (openly) talking politics is a political statement, too. 26
Containing the Danger of Dangerous Tunes
What exactly do Chinese governments do in view of this potentially subversive force? To begin with, they semanticize the asemantic. Picking up on yet another age-old tradition, the provision of titles or programmes for musical compositions, they manipulate the meaning of music by infusing them with words and texts, by simply constructing safe and "correct" meaning. 27 In order to tackle the implied threat music poses to them, Chinese governments simply supply their own interpretations. 28
It is not the musical style that explains why Du Mingxin's and Wu Zuqiang's composition "Hongse niangzijun" ("The red detachment of women") was hailed as a model work during the Cultural Revolution when "Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai" ("The butterfly violin concerto") by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang would be condemned for its bourgeois flavour. Musically speaking, both pieces keep to the conventions of late romantic music and combine it with pentatonic phrases from Chinese traditional tunes. In the political tug-of-war over music it is the programme, the story line that explains the political evaluation of the two compositions. "Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai" describes the sufferings of a loving couple, their individual fates, whereas "Hongse niangzijun" teaches Wu Qinghua, the female heroine, to overcome her individualist thoughts of revenge in order to serve the good of all and the victory of communism. Thus the music is politicized by means of titles and programmes. This method is not used in the PRC alone: the titles of prize-winning works in national competitions in Taiwan, such as "Secure Taiwan" or "Eulogy on the Republic of China," blandly reveal their use for government politics. 29 In their understanding and in their treatment of music as art, Chinese governments are apparently loyal to their own cultural heritage. Whether consciously or not, they pick up on traditional Chinese concepts.
It is thus not surprising that the traditional or national flavour, the minzuxing or Chineseness of Chinese New Music should interest them, too. Chinese governments on both sides of the Taiwan straits are wary to save and improve their traditional heritage. The exact theoretical meaning of Chineseness is not easy to define and is therefore just as open to arbitrary (and thus politicized) treatment as musical style itself. In the PRC, the authoritative text is still Mao's Yan'an Talks and his Talk to Music Workers. In these two texts, he makes the following claims:
We certainly may not reject the ancients and foreigners as models, which means, I'm afraid, that we must even use feudal and bourgeois things. But they are . . . models and not substitutes. 30
In music you may apply appropriate foreign principles and use foreign instruments. But still there must be national characteristics. We must have our own distinctive style, something that is unique. 31
Mao here establishes elements which would be formed into the slogan gu wei jin yong, Yang wei Zhong yong (Make the past serve the present and foreign culture serve China). 32 The slogan is directly echoed in directives by Chiang Kaishek "to revive the old tradition and develop a national music by absorbing influences old and new" which were presented in the Taiwanese China Yearbook of 1966/67. It is also paralleled by the aims set out for Hong Kong music: "we believe that Chinese music can make a niche in world music only when it achieves an integration of national characteristics in a modern spirit." 33
However vague their theories, Chinese governments seem to have a pretty clear practical picture about the type of national music they appreciate. Their orthodox music makes use of the melody, the scales, or certain instrumental techniques prevalent in traditional Chinese music and translates them into a Western idiom, onto Western instruments, and into the structure of late romantic harmony. 34 What made China's governments and composers choose this type of pentatonic romanticism as the basis of their orthodox attempts to incorporate tradition? Are they aware that some of the violin sonatas by Janacek or the musical idiom of Tchaikovsky's "Capriccio Italien" are in fact closer to their own products than the indigenous tradition they had wanted to transmit? The orthodox modernization of Chinese music practises Yang wei Zhong yong in such a way that the result is the complete Westernization of Chinese (traditional) music. 35 It was a feeling of contempt for the cruder qualities of traditional music that made governments choose only heavily reduced stylized or reformed elements from it. 36 A break with China's own tradition had taken place since composers had turned to and were almost exclusively immersed in Western classical and late romantic musical culture. 37
The composition of orthodox national Music thus followed the Western model. There, it had been the slow death of folk music which had lead to its osmosis into the serious musical repertoire. Once orally transmitted, this folk music was now fixed on paper, was stylized, and entered into the concert tradition. The attempt at the conservation of traditional music lead to the creation by default of an entirely new, an "invented tradition." Adorno once explained this phenomenon describing certain themes in symphonies by Brahms. He said they sounded "as the sophisticated mind would imagine a true folksong to sound, a song that had never so existed." 38 Chinese composers, by taking over much of the musical language and techniques of this Western approach of "inventing tradition," were bound to depart from their own tradition even despite the fact that it was still alive. Their music is not an "invented tradition" as a response to a dying folk tradition but rather an "invented tradition" which, infatuated with its Western model, even invents the death of its own folk tradition. Only in an ironical twist this type of music is also incorporating the concept of gu wei jin yong. What is called modernization (jin) of Chinese music, the stylization of tradition, stands for a combination of the Western old with the Chinese old (gu).
But even writing this type of music is no guarantee of political success. As we have seen in the case of "Hongse niangzijun" and "Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai," the music cannot explain the different receptions given the pieces. Both combine the pentatonic phrases with the harmonic conventions of late romantic music in orthodox fashion, but the former was hailed as a model work in national style while the latter was condemned for its foreign flavour. Whether or not something is called national music is thus not determined by the music itself but by its (attributed) political content.
Although one can't be sure that all music that sounds a great deal like "Hongse niangzi jun" will be deemed correct music, writing music that departs from this style almost certainly leads to government disapproval. All music that does not sound like "Hongse niangzi jun" is deemed dangerous and will be considered the music of an obscurantist remonstrator. 39 This is the case for those composers who have taken to different forms of incorporating tradition in their compositions. The confrontation with Western New Music which began in the sixties in Hong Kong and Taiwan had taken place in the thirties and was recovered again in the late seventies in the PRC. This confrontation made some Chinese composers discover certain similarities between Chinese old or traditional music and Western New Music. Therefore, in their compositions they may no longer use the orthodox principles of Western conventional harmony, a feature never prevalent in Chinese music before the introduction of Western music at the beginning of the twentieth century. They may make use of aleatoric techniques and thereby return to the traditional idea of the performer who reinterprets and so somehow recreates a musical piece that is orally transmitted. They also incorporate in their musical compositions inflections or noises which can be derived from idiosyncratic features of Chinese instruments, or they make use of some of the religious (Buddhist, Lamaist) or philosophic traditions in Chinese heritage, of Daoism, the Yijing and wuxing theories, techniques which in either sound or structure can be compared to soundism, brutism, minimalism, and serialism. All of this negates established orthodox categories of national music, destroys all the well-established (Western) concepts of the composer, of Western harmony, and even incorporates superstitious and non-conforming religious and philosophical thoughts as well as the lower qualities of Chinese instruments which had been improved in arduous reform efforts. Yet all of this could be termed gu wei jin yong. Chinese composers are using their own tradition, gu, to create the sound effects of jin, of New Music. A lot of Western New Music makes extensive use of Asian musical techniques. By emulating this in making use of their own traditional culture then, in a double mirror reflection, these composers are also able to fulfill, by an ironic twist, the second part of Mao's slogan, Yang wei Zhong yong.
The government slogan guwei jin yong, Yang wei Zhong yong turns out to be a double-edged sword. 40 While the government continues "to wield it for their own purposes," they are afraid that it may be "a blade that can cut both ways, at times in a fashion that undermines the Party-sponsored interpretations of history or sabotages the Party's latest political line." 41 What else but an act of sabotage is a composition such as Ge Ganru's (born 1954) "Yi Feng" ("Customs") of 1983 for amplified cello solo which incorporates the noise structures in erhu and pipa playing to try to convey the essence and the idiosyncracies of (crude) Chinese traditional music which the government had taken great pains to eradicate in various reform efforts?
Yang wei Zhong yong, gu wei jin yong has become the most powerful weapon in the hands of both the composers and the governments. The very same governments who wield it declaring to be out to preserve Chinese tradition are in fact destroying tradition, and those who are officially said to destroy it, the more radical composers, are really the ones who preserve it. This paradox and the fact that both types of music have found their way into musical circles in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the PRC is not to say "that the only or the main effect of cultural policies is counterproductive: it is to say that the effects are numerous, diffuse, sometimes interestingly counterproductive, and in any case beyond anyone's easy `engineering'." 42 Against some common sinological contentions about New Music in China, I argue that party policies, rather than hindering the development of Chinese New Music, have in fact often?if unwillingly?instigated the most important changes in this music, and thus have themselves sharpened the second cutting edge of the sword. In the PRC, the Cultural Revolution `educated' a group of composers that would turn their backs on stylized music by introducing a large group of youngsters to their own cultural tradition during their years in the countryside. Similarly, it was the suppression of the anti-government xiangtu movement which infused the interest in the Taiwanese and Chinese folk-tradition in Taiwanese composers, not the constant and somehow repetitive government campaigns such as the wenhua fuxing yundong (Cultural Renaissance movement) advocating a stylized, refined type of Chinese culture. In Hong Kong the international atmosphere and the laissez-faire attitude of a colonial government led in the early 1970s to the foundation of a very national body, the Asian Composers' League, which supports the use of international musical styles but advocates?and almost dictates?the use of Chinese or Asian styles in the compositions of Asian composers. 43 It is these types of governmental goals that created the unified picture of Chinese New Music.
Conclusion
How can we make sense of the situation described above, and in particular the similarities between the politics of New Music on opposite sides of the Taiwan Strait? Of course one could argue that both Taiwan and the PRC are simply very similar political systems, since they are both based on Leninist party structures. Yet reference to similarities in political structure would not explain why Hong Kong, too, fits into the homogenous picture of Chinese New Music sketched out above.
I have been arguing here that the most crucial factor to keep in mind when analyzing this situation is the simple fact that all of the governments and composers involved are Chinese living in an era of increased cultural interchange with the West, and that hence their understanding of the links between art and politics have been shaped in large part by a common cultural heritage and a common international predicament. I am aware that even though this claim would seem quite straightforward, to state it this baldly is to run against the grain of certain trends in current scholarship on China or at least within Western sinology. During the last decade or so, after all, works on China published in Europe, North America, and Australia have been filled with essays that attack previous generations of foreign analysts for overstating the homogeneity of Chinese "tradition," and for presenting Chinese "political culture" as too monolithic an entity and one that was (and is) largely impervious to change and unaffected by divisions associated with class, gender, region, and so forth. These critiques are, in some cases, important correctives to former tendencies within Western sinology, and there is certainly something to be said for adopting a more critical stance toward sweeping generalizations about "enduring" China, for shifting toward thinking of multiple political cultures as opposed to a single political culture that is stagnant and unvarying, and for weighing carefully the role of Western influence on changes within Chinese society. Nonetheless, this shift away from anything that smacks of "Orientalism" should not blind us from seeing things that are indeed best explained in terms of shared experiences and common outlooks developed over time among people affected by the West and influenced by a relatively stable body of texts and traditions which continue to exert a certain power even over those who claim to have rejected Confucianism.
This would seem to me to be one such case, since the most important clue for understanding the similarities relating to New Music that are described above is to focus on the cultural oneness of these three parts: firstly, even today the relation between music and politics is determined not by not modern and system-dependent conceptions, but rather by traditional Chinese ones; and, secondly, the question of creating a Chinese national music again is not a question to be asked by a certain political system but rather by any Chinese government peopled by traditionally history-conscious Chinese. In other words, it seems clear in this case that whatever their government, Chinese composers can be seen reacting in a definably Chinese way to the Western challenge. One also sees in this case that, whatever ideology the government in question claims to espouse, the official approach it adopts toward New Music can be explained largely by interpreting it as a Chinese official reaction to attempts to meet this challenge.
1. Several pieces by Geremie Barméthat deal with rock music lyrics can be found in his forthcoming collection, In the Red: Essays on Contemporary Chinese Culture (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996). For work on rock music by Andrew F. Jones, see his book Like a Knife: Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music (Ithaca: Cornell East Asia Series, 1992) and his follow-up essay "The Politics of Popular Music in Post-Tiananmen China," in Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China, ed. Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry (Boulder: Westview Press, 1994), 148-65. For Andreas Steen see his "Die Entwicklung der Popmusik in der VR China: Vn Zhou Xuan bis Cui Jian," in Yaogun Yinyue: Jugend-Subkultur und Rockmusik in China. Politische und gesellschaftliche Hintergründe eines neuen Phänomens, ed. Thomas Heberer (Münster: LIT, 1994), 47-68. For Goeth, see his early essay "Chen Mingzhang, Chen Sheng und Wu Junlin (Wu Bai): Taiwanesische Popmusik mit politischen Texten," ibid., 181-201.
2. Works of this sort on opera range from those that pay a great deal of attention to musical composition to those that virtually ignore the fact that the dramas in question are sung as opposed to spoken. A good example of the former is Bell Yung, "Model Opera as Model: From Shajiabang to Sagabong," in Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts in the People's Republic of China, 1949-1979, ed. Bonnie S. McDougall (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), 144-64. A good example of the latter is R. David Arkush, "Love and Marriage in North Chinese Peasant Operas," in Unofficial China: Popular Culture and Thought in the People's Republic, ed. Perry Link, Richard Madsen, and Paul G. Pickowicz (Boulder: Westview Press, 1989), 72-87. Several important general discussions of the role of operatic traditions in Chinese political and cultural life can be found in David Johnson, Andrew J. Nathan, and Evelyn Rawski, eds., Popular Culture in Late Imperial China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985).
3 See, for example, various works in McDougall, Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts, including the already cited Yung, "Model Opera"; David Holm, "Folk Art as Propaganda: The Yangge Movement in Yan'an," 3-35; and Isabel F. K. Wong, "Geming Gequ: Songs for the Education of the Masses," 112-43. See also David Holm, Art and Ideology in Revolutionary China (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991); Frank Kouwenhoven, "Composer Tan Dun: The Ritual Fire Dancer of Mainland China's New Music," China Information 6.3 (1991/92): 1-24; Frank Kouwenhoven, "Developments in Mainland China's New Music, Part I: From China to the United States," China Information 7.1 (1992): 17-39; Frank Kouwenhoven, "Developments in Mainland China's New Music, Part II: From Europe to the Pacific and Back to China," China Information 7.2 (1992): 30-45; Frank Kouwenhoven, "Mainland China's New Music (1) Out of the Desert," CHIME no. 2 (1990): 58-93; Frank Kouwenhoven, "Mainland China's New Music (2) Madly singing in the Mountains," CHIME no. 3 (1991): 42-75; Frank Kouwenhoven, "Mainland China's New Music (3) The Age of Pluralism," CHIME no. 5 (1992): 76-134; and Harrison Ryker, ed., New Music in the Orient: Essays on Composition in Asia since World War II (Buren, The Netherlands: F. Kunf, 1990).
4 See, for example, the contributions to Ryker, ed., New Music in the Orient; Kouwenhoven, "Composer Tan Dun"; Kouwenhoven, Developments in Mainland China's New Music, Part I"; Kouwenhoven, "Developments in Mainland China's New Music, Part II"; Kouwenhoven, "Mainland China's New Music."
5 The quote is from Jacques Barzun, "The Meaning of Meaning in Music: Berlioz Once More," Musical Quarterly 66.1 (1980): 5. For the general point, see works on the development of music in the Third Reich and Soviet Russia, most recently Michael Meyer, The Politics of Music in the Third Reich (New York: Peter Lang, 1991); and Stephan Rudolf, Über Musik und Politik (Mainz: B. Schott's Söhne, 1971). See also Lun yinyue de jiejixing [On the class character of music] (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1975). For an extensive discussion of this issue featuring the attitudes of a great number of Chinese composers as revealed in interviews with them, see Barbara Mittler, "Music and Politics," chapter 2 of Barbara Mittler, Dangerous Tunes: The Politics of Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the PRC since 1949 (Opera sinologica) (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, forthcoming, 1997).
6 Those interested in more comprehensive references to the specialized literature on Chinese New Music, as well as more detailed discussion of musicological issues, can find some of both in Mittler, Dangerous Tunes. Given my aims in the present paper, I do not engage explicitly with several important works on the general issue of music and politics in modern China, including publications such as Richard Curt Kraus, Pianos and Politics in China: Middle-Class Ambitions and the Struggle over Western Music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); and Arnold Perris, Music as Propaganda: Art to Persuade and to Control (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985).
7 Cited in Perry Link, "The Limits of Cultural Reform in Deng Xiaoping's China," Modern China 13.2 (1987): 116.
8 There is little general information on composers of Chinese New Music to be found in the secondary literature. C. C. Liu, ed., Zhongguo Xin Yinyueshi Lunji. 4 vols. (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, 1986-1992) provides thorough insight into different aspects of Chinese musical history. Wang Yuhe, Zhongguo jinxiandai yinyueshi [A history of Chinese modern and contemporary music] (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1984); Wang Yuhe, Zhongguo Xiandai Yinyue Shigang [A brief history of Chinese contemporary music] (Beijing: Huawen chubanshe, 1991); and especially the well-researched, very up-to-date articles, cited earlier, by Frank Kouwenhoven published in CHIME and China Information provide useful information on mainland composers. Taiwanese and Hong Kong composers are dealt with in Ryker, ed., New Music in the Orient; and histories by Xu Changhui, especially the most recent: Xu Changhui, Taiwan yinyueshe chugao [First draft history of Taiwanese music] (Taibei: Quan Yinyuepu chubanshe, 1991).
9 For a more elaborate description of these traditional theories and their formulation in the Yueji and the Shujing, see Barbara Mittler, "Sprachlose Propaganda? Politik und musikalische Avantgarde in Hongkong, Taiwan und der VR China," in Yaogun Yinyue, ed. Heberer, 33-46.
10 James Legge, Li Chi: Book of Rites. An Encyclopedia of Ancient Ceremonial Usages, Religious Creeds, and Social Institutions (New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1967), 95.
11 The Shujing explains "Yu yu wen liu lü, wu sheng, ba yin, zai zhi cong" (let me hear the six lü and the five notes and the eight categories of sounds, in order to know of the state of my government). For the dating, functions, and workings of the yuefu, see Jean-Pierre Dieny, Aux origines de la poesie classique en Chine: Etudes sur l'epoque des Han [The origins of classical poetry in China: Studies on the Han Period] (Leiden: Brill, 1968); and Fritz Kuttner, The Archaeology of Music in Ancient China (New York: Paragon, 1990), 224.
12 Xu Yi interview by Barbara Mittler, Feb. 19, 1993 (in Barbara Mittler's posession).
13 McDougall, Bonnie S., ed., Mao Zedong's "Talks at the Yan'an conference on literature and art": A Translation of the 1943 Text with Commentary (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, 1980), 75.
14 Aphorisms of President Chiang Kaishek (Taibei: Government Information Office, 1974), 79.
15 Sun Yat-Sen, San Min Chu I: The Three Principles of the People, trans. Frank Price (Taibei: China Cultural Service, 1953), 304-5. This volume includes two supplementary chapters by Jiang Jieshi.
16 From W. H. Auden, "Music Is International," in W. H. Auden, Collected Shorter Poems, 1927-57, (London: Faber and Faber, 1969), 227.
17 China Handbook (1952/1953) (Taibei: China Publishing Company, 1953), 243.
18 Cf. Red Guards of the Middle School of the Central
Conservatory of Music, "How the `Red Guards Battle Song' Was Born," China Reconstructs 17.3 (1968): 37.
19 Walter Kaufmann, Musical References in the Chinese Classics (Detroit: Information Coordinators, 1976), 42-43. Zheng (774-500 BC) was a feudal state occupying the area of present Kaifeng in Henan. Wei (1022-241 BC) was a feudal state occupying parts of Eastern Henan and Southern Hebei.
20 "Xiandai zichan jieji fandong yinyue liupai qianjie," Renmin yinyue no. 2 (1959): 2. For further discussion of and citations relating to the cases of Lam and Xu, see Mittler, Dangerous Tunes.
21 Sun, San Min Chu I, 304.
22 Chu Lan, "A Decade of Revolution," Peking Review 31 (1974): 8.
23 Perris, Music as Propaganda, 18.
24 By quoting from China's tradition of remonstrating intellectuals who ever again voiced their grievances in poetry, Chinese composers acknowledge their indebtedness to this tradition. Titles such as Tianwen or Lisao or even Dou E Yuan have become topoi in Chinese New Music in all three parts of China.
25 Rudolf Wagner writes that "the very literariness of literature, its imagery, metaphors, and narrative . . . are but tactical disguises of the true intention, designed to spare the irate adressee the pain of direct and open criticism and to spare the writer the punishment for such temerity." Rudolf Wagner, "The Implied Censor in Chinese Fiction," unpublished (in Barbara Mittler's possession), 15. Modern campaigns against obscurantist poetry come to mind; they seem to deal with exactly this problem.
26 The campaigns against absolute music which flared up particulary during the latter years of the Cultural Revolution will be remembered. One of the most influential essays in this context is Chu Lan's article in Lun yinyue de jiejixing [The class character of music] (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1975), translated as "Criticize the Revisionist viewpoint in music," Peking Review 9 (1974): 18-19.
27 This has been a well-established tradition since at least the second century AD. Cf. Han Kuo-Huang "The Chinese Concept of Program Music," Asian Music 10 (1978): 1-43.
28 The state of music criticism in Hong Kong as well as in the PRC and in Taiwan mirrors this development. Very seldom is pure musical analysis attempted. Music criticism deals with the "content" of a piece and its "background" (i.e., the composer's life) rather than with the music itself. See Jin Jingyan, "Musikforschung in der VR (1949-1988)," Acta Musicologica 61 (1989): 108; and Mittler, Dangerous Tunes, Chapter 2.
29 "Taiwansheng jinxiandai yinyue," YYYS 4 (1986): 34. For very similar titles from the PRC see the works mentioned by Li Huanzhi in his article on "People's Republic," in New Music in the Orient, ed. Ryker, 192-98.
30 McDougall, Mao Zedong's Talks, 69.
31 Mao Zedong, "A Talk to Music Workers," Chinese Literature no. 1 (1980): 83-88.
32 The slogan was first introduced in 1956 along with the directive to "Let a hundred flowers blossom and a hundred schools of thought contend."
33 Chow Fan-Fu and Richard Tsang, "Music Creation in Hong Kong: Its Development and Prospect," in The Contemporary Chinese Music Festival (Hong Kong, 1986).
34 Certainly the choice of tradition was different in the PRC and Taiwan. Taiwanese composers were neither allowed to use folksongs from the communist area, nor songs from the Taiwanese heritage due to their possible political associations (communism or independence). Since the communists were reforming yangge, it was deemed unworthy for reform in Taiwan. Taiwanese attempts at modernizing Beijing Opera were sometimes compared to similar attempts on the mainland and were condemned for their imitation of the techniques of the yangbanxi. Such manifestations of the particular communist choice and selection of traditional and Western elements were condemned by Jiang Jieshi: "We shall be able to realize the vital importance of dancing once our educators and artists see how the Chinese Communists try to undermine our aesthetic appreciation and ethical sense by means of the ugly wicked Yangko dance in order to destroy our national character." Sun, San Min Chu I, 316-17.
35 For evident reasons, namely the observed similarities of music in the three completely different social systems of the PRC, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, I argue with David Holm, who explains that "Faced with fundamentally incompatible Chinese and Western artistic conventions the Party's writers and artists produced works of art in which both were used side by side. . . . . At the level of artistic form, as well as in content, this kind of art is truly a reflection of the society and the political forces that produced it." Holm, Art and Ideology in Revolutionary China, 338-39. I would argue that musical form is in fact mostly independent from the societal and especially the political structures of a country. Trevor Bray makes a a convincing argument for this case when he writes that, since the "deep structure of medieval sacred music is found to be a particular treatment of pentatonics, and the blues is also analysed as fundamentally pentatonic, [and New Chinese music, too has these pentatonic elements], one cannot help wondering what are the exact parallels in the societies that produced these . . . types of music." Trevor Bray, review of Whose Music? A Sociology of Musical Languages by John Shephard, Phil Virden, and Trevor Wisharl, Music and Letters, 59.3 (1978): 352-53. Cultural factors, on the other hand, appear to be much more important in the determination of music. In my argument, the structure and expectations of a certain type of society, a Chinese one, determine the formation of a certain type of music, not political forces.
36 This type of music makes use of reformed and improved instruments or adds Western instruments to make up for the "deficiencies" of Chinese instruments.
37 The teaching of the history and the techniques of Western New Music has been very restrained in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the PRC for many years and is only slowly picking up in the 80s and 90s.
38 Theodor W. Adorno, Einleitung in die Musiksoziologie; Zwolf Theoretische Vorlesungen, (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989), 200.
39 A comparison of an orthodox and an unorthodox treatment of Chinese melody might serve to illuminate this point. Chen Peixun's (b. 1921) Huanle chunjian huayueye [A happy night on spring river], composed in 1977-1978, keeps to the melodic phrases of the Chinese tune and sets them off with Western harmonics. It is a typical example of pentatonic romanticism stylizing the traditional melodic frame. Zhou Long's (b. 1953) Su [Tracing back] for flute and qin (1985), on the other hand, is an example of the more radical and unorthodox approach Chinese composers have taken toward tradition. The piece dissects the melody Youlan, alienates and fragmentizes it. Zhou's composition is a typical example of gu wei jin yong. The old melody (gu) appears in a modernist (jin) framework.
40 See the collection of essays in Jonathan Unger, ed., Using the Past to Serve the Present (Armonk: M. E. Sharpe, 1993).
41 Jonathan Unger, "Introduction," ibid., 8.
42 Link, "Limits of Cultural Reform," 164.
43 Chan Kambiu interview by Barbara Mittler, Oct. 23, 1992; and Xu Changhui interview by Mittler, Sept. 28, 1992 (in Barbara Mittler's possession).
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