CHIME Newsletter No.7

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CHIME Newsletter No.7

Publishing organization: CHIME



The 13th International CHIME Conference (on ‘Music and Ritual in China and East Asia’) at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (from 16 to 19 October) will start with prayer and chanting by Tibetan monks of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Monastery in Woodstock. There will be a keynote talk by the well-known expert on Tibetan Buddhist music and ritual, Prof. Ter Ellingson (University of Washington in Seattle); the afternoon’s opening ceremonies will end with a short performance by the Balinese gamelan ensemble at Bard, Gamelan Giri Mekar, followed by a dinner reception. Other concerts during the CHIME meeting include an evening of traditional ensemble music from Vietnam led by Phong Nguyen, and a concert of contemporary Chinese music. We welcome everyone interested - scholars, musicians and general afficionados alike - to attend, and (as always) we encourage informal music making after the paper sessions. For details of the conference programme and for registration, see or


One of the finest groups of traditional marionette theatre in China will tour Holland and Luxemburg from 16 to 25 October 2008. The Quanzhou Marionette Theatre (Fujian Province) participated in the opening ceremony of the recent Beijing Olympics, and made a strong impact on foreign audiences during the Amsterdam China Festival in 2005. It now returns to Europe with a mixed programme of short plays, including a ritual ceremony to consecrate the stage and an excerpt from a reconstructed Mulian opera. The group has its own vocal operatic traditions and its own (splendid) orchestra, co-featuring a foot drum (of which the pitch can be altered by changing one’s foot pressure on the drum skin) and ‘flying gongs’ (small hand gongs which are struck as they are thrown up in the air). Locations: 16 en 24 October Groningen, Groninger Museum; 17 October Helmond, Het Speelhuis; 18 October, Zwolle, Odeon; 20 October, Woerden, Het Klooster; 22 October, Amsterdam, The Concertgebouw; 23 October, Luxemburg, Kulturfabrik, and 25 October, Utrecht, RASA. The tour is organized jointly by CHIME and RASA Productions.


On the heels of the 90th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, the Department of Music, Hong Kong Baptist University (Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong), announces an interdisciplinary conference focusing on Sino-Western (Europe, North America, and other ‘developed’ parts of the world) musical relations, intersections, receptions, and representations. Individuals interested in presenting papers at “East Meets West” are invited to submit abstracts. Deadline: 3 November 2008. Keynote addresses will be delivered by Prof. Frederick Lau (University of Hawaii, USA), Prof. Jonathan Stock (University of Sheffield, UK), and Prof. Cornelia Szabó-Knotik (Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst, AT). Send abstracts of no more than 250 words in English (for paper of 20 minutes in length) by Monday 3 November 2008 to Dr. Hon-Lun Yang at Authors will receive replies by Monday, 1 December 2008. A cash grant of HK$2500 will be awarded to overseas (non-Hong Kong resident), paper-presenting participants. For more information, check


In November 2007, the Research Institute of Ritual Music in China (RIRMC, Zhongguo yishi yinyue yanjiu zhongxin) was established at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music as one of the Key Research Institutes of Humanities and Social Sciences of Shanghai Universities. It’s predecessor was the ‘Chinese Traditional Ritual Music Research Project’ led by Prof. Tsao Pen-Yeh at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Presently, the RIRMC is headed by Prof. Tsao, with Prof Xiao Mei as Vice-President in charge of day-to-day business. They also feature in the Institute’s scientific committee, which co-involves Prof. Qiao Jianzhong (the former head of the Beijing Music Research Institute), Prof. Yang Minkang (Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing), and Prof. Stephen Wild (Secretary-General of ICTM). RIRMC held its first conference on ritual music on 16 and 17 January 2008, inviting ideas for research projects. Until now, 31 projects were adopted by (or came under co-supervision of) the centre. The Centre also serves as a network for researchers on ritual music. Starting from 2009, the RIRMC will publish an annual scientific journal named Da Yin (Ritual Soundscape. This autumn (13-14 November 2008) it will launch an annual seminar under the same name. The RIRMC has a digital archive of ritual music. The RIRMC’s umbrella organisation (the E-institute of Music Anthropology in Shanghai) plans to establish a Digital Centre of Traditional Music, including a digital archive of Chinese traditional folk songs, and of Chinese instrumental music. The RIRMC also has a reading room, which started with a generous gift of reading materials from the collection of Prof. Tsao. The room is open for students and research fellows. For more information, check the RIRMC’s website, set up in cooperation with the Shanghai Gaoxiao Yinyue Renleixue E-yanjiuyuan (E-Institute of Music Anthropology in Shanghai):

[Source of info: Prof. Xiao Mei.]


Creative Dissonances: Music in a Global Perspective

Asian-European crossovers in both popular and art music are among the most successful experiments within the global music scene. This does not mean that music is a ‘universal language’, however: the alleged ‘harmony’ of ‘World Music’ is a problematic construction, hiding the cultural consequences of complex historical processes. One of its characteristic asymmetries is the fact that Western critics have described non-Western musical cultures in terms of deficiencies. Such evaluations have been adopted by Asians themselves and have been integrated into their educational systems. This process again triggered a creative impulse which constitutes yet another cultural flow, now returning to Western musical culture. Our project aims to identify and to describe the creative dissonances inherent and engendered in this process of (double) mirroring which has produced challenging artistic conceptions of global interest.

The project staff consists of two Senior Researchers (Dorothea Redepenning & Barbara Mittler), a Junior Research group which approaches the subject from the point of view of the domestication of Western popular music in Japan (Oliver Seibt), Korea (Michael Fuhr), and with the impact the resulting East Asian pop music genres have in the so called “West”, with the reflux of an originally North Indian music “westernized” and made internationally known by Indian emigrants in the UK to India (Patrick Fröhlicher). Associated projects deal with “Western-style” musical institutions such as education and notation in Republican China (Lena Henningsen), with the role of international organizations in global musical production (Christiane Sibille), the interplay of “Western” and Chinese avant-garde music (Hsiao-hua Yang) and Sanskrit theatre (Heike Moser). The project organizes a regular lecture and concert series and irregularly invites guest professors and composers-in-residence. For more info, contact:;


China is still one of the few countries in the world with a growth potential for Western classical music. In Peking, close to the Forbidden City and the Great Hall of the People, a giant dome of glass and titanium was erected for 320 million Euros. The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), popularly nicknamed ‘the Egg’, opened its doors last year. The building, designed by the French architect Paul Andreu, contains a hall for classical opera with 2416 seats, another hall for Peking Opera with 1040 seats, a hall for concerts with 2017 seats, and an additional theatre. The building is surrounded by an artificial lake, and the interior can only be reached via a glass-made walkway which plunges underneath the water. As architect Andreu comments: ‘I was always attached to the idea that you don’t enter an opera house as you might push open the door of a supermarket. You need time to enter the world of opera.’

Inside, the curving walls are covered with glowing, reddish wood of a kind also used to make cellos. The NCPA’s concert events, so far, have featured Maoist potboilers such as ‘The Red Detachment of Women’ and other Chinese fake-lore spectacles, but also many classical music events with an impressive line-up of Western artists, including Kurt Masur, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Myung-Whun chung, Renée Fleming, Angela Gheorghiu, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and many others.

Read more on the NCPA’s programmes on the centre’s own official website (which has a section in English): Adequate background info on the NCPA can be found on Wikipedia:

For an insightful article by Robbie Moore on NCPA’s architecture, see:

For more on the NCPA, see also below.


During its first eight months, numerous NCPA activities drew full houses, thanks also to Beijing’s nouveau riche (who were ready to pay three to four thousand yuan per ticket for evenings with the Beijing Philharmonic). But are showcase halls like the ‘Egg’ (with its somewhat disappointing acoustics) really the most suitable venues to promote Western classical music (let alone provide a home for Chinese traditional culture) in China ? A tricky question for the policy makers, who will go to considerable lengths to defend their taste for ‘mega’ and high-brow. The government has had to pay through the nose to maintain affordable price levels at NCPA: much of the second season's budget of the ‘Egg’ in Beijing had already been spent by the end of the first. The average NCPA ticket in the second season now costs 300 yuan (it was 430 yuan during the first season). It has led to a situation where 60 per cent of NCPA’s audiences are newcomers to classical music, as NCPA’s president Chen Ping proudly asserts. But the centre’s visitors are served an almost exclusive diet of romantic symphonic music. Very little baroque, very little contemporary repertoire: no Messiaen, no Stockhausen, very few living composers. A Chinese female conductor explained the Chinese passion for romantic music - Tchaikovsky still being the number one favourite - as follows: ‘For a long time we were not allowed to show our feelings. Now that this has changed, we want to wallow in our emotions!’ There is a clear preference for gala concerts and other high-profile and large-scale events.

A five-hour piano concert was held at NCPA during the Beijing Olympics. It culminated in the world premiere of a concerto by Cui Shiguang for ten pianos and orchestra. Pianists Lang Lang, Liu Shikun, Claude Frank, Philippe Entremont, Cyprien Katsaris, Louis Lortie, Guillermo Gonzalez, Vladimir Feltsman, Sa Chen and Cui Yunyi joined forces with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra in a barrage of sound, which was spectacular and funny enough to elicit an enthusiastic audience response. With such mega-initiatives taking pride of place, it may yet take a while before Chinese audiences can start exploring the merits of string trios or baroque ensembles.

For more on the Olympics piano gala, and on classical music in China and the ‘Egg’, see the recent (special 30th anniversary) issue of Gramophone (pp. 141-143).


A Conference and a festival to commemmorate the 30th anniversary of the Excavation of the grave of Zeng Hou Yi – the site of the famous 2,500-year old set of 65 bronze chime bells – will take place in Wuhan and in other parts of Hubei from 7 to 12 December 2008. These activities are organized jointly by the Suizhou City government, the Hubei Provincial Museum, the Wuhan Music Conservatory and the Cultural Bureau of Hubei Province. On 7 December, participants from China and abroad wil gather at the Wuhan Conservatory to depart for the excavation site (now incorporated in a museum) in Suizhou. On 8 December the opening ceremony of the Suizhou Bells Art Festival will take place, followed by a visit to the Suizhou museum. On 9 December, conference delegates will visit the newly built Hubei Provincial Museum in Hubei, where the original bells and related artifacts are on the display. The actual conference, with paper presentations by Chinese and foreign scholars, will be hosted by the Wuhan Conservatory on 10 and 11 December. Proceedings will be published by the Wuhan Publishing House. For more information, contact

[Source of info: Prof. Li Youping.]


We would like to bring to your attention some recent publications on (or co-related to) Chinese music (see below). A more extensive list of all recent articles and books (in Western languages) will follow in the upcoming volume 18-19 of CHIME. (For adding items to the list, please feel free to contact us:

Bellér-Hann, Ildikó, M.Cristina Cesàro, Rachel Harris & Joanne Smith Finley - Situating the Uyghurs Between China and Central Asia. Ashgate Publishing Ltd, 2007, 276 pp. index, illus.

Chan, Margaret - Ritual is Theatre, Theatre is Ritual. Tang-ki: Chinese Spirit Medium Worship. SNP International Publishing PTE LTD, Singapore, 2001, 184 pp, tables, illus., bibliography, glossary, index, photos.

Chang, Peter M. - Chou Wen-chung: The life and work of a contemporary Chinese-born American composer. The Scarecrow Press Inc, Lanham, 2006, 241 pp., music exs.

Gissenwehrer, Michael & Gerd Kaminski (eds) - In der Hand des Höllenfürsten sind wir alle Puppen. Grenzen und Möglichkeiten des chinesischen Figurentheaters der Gegenwart. Herbert Utz Verlag, München, 2008, 182 pp, illus.

Jones, Stephen - Ritual and Music of North China: Shawm Bands in Shanxi. Ashgate Publishing Ltd, Hampshire, 2007, 132 pp., incl. 1 DVD.

Lindqvist, Cecilia - Qin. En beträttelse om det kinesiska instrumentet qin... [A book in Swedish on the author’s experiences with the guqin and guqin players in China in the 1960s. A translation into Chinese is in preparation]. Albert Bonniers Förlag, Stockholm, 2006, 272 pp, illus, index, 1 CD.

Picard, François - Lexique des musiques d’asie orientale (Chine, Coree, Japon, Vietnam). You-Feng, Paris, 2006, bibliography, music exs., tables.

Ruizendaal, Robin - Marionette Theatre in Quanzhou. Brill, Leiden / Boston, 2006, 470 pp, illus, notes, appendices, index.

Steen, Andreas - Zwischen Unterhaltung und Revolution. Grammophone, Schallplatten und die Anfänge der Musikindustrie in Shanghai, 1878-1937. Harrasowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2006, 525 pp, illus, gloss., index.

Thrasher, Alan R. - Sizhu Instrumental Music of South China: Ethos, Theory and Practice. Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2008, 218 pp., index, illus.

Tian Mansha & Johannes Odenthal - Lebendige Erinnerung - Xiqu. Zeitgenössische Entwicklungen im chinesischen Musiktheater. Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 2006, 199 pp, illus.

Titon, Jeff Todd (ed.) - Worlds of Music. An Introduction to the Music of the World’s Peoples. 5th Edition. Schirmer, Cengage Learning, 2002 / 2009, 609 pp, illus., music exs., index, 4 cds. [Educational book, includes a 58 pp-chapter by Jonathan Stock on East Asia/China.]

Veer, Paul van der - Daxi: Chinese street opera in Singapore. (Photo book with essays). Paul van der Veer/Fortemps, 2008, 172 pp., illus. ISBN 978-90-78213-05-5

Yuet Chau, Adam - Miraculous Response. Doing Popular Religion in Contemporary China. Stanford University Press, Stanford California, 2006, 317 pp, photos, notes, index, maps, table

MusikTexte, Vol.116, August 2008 (in German). The autumn edition of this quarterly journal (112 pp) is devoted largely to composer Chou Wen-chung, with contributions by Eric Lai, Reinhard Oehlschlägel, Don Gillespie, Mark Steinberg and many others.


Our colleague Andreas Steen sent us the following note: “ ‘Lieblingslied-Records’ (Berlin) released a double-DVD&book-version of its film on Beijing underground rock, ‘Beijing Bubbles’. In addition, they published two more project related materials, the Band ‘Shazi’ and ‘Poptastic’. All these products now are internationally available, e.g. via The young team of idealistic film makers and China enthusiasts spent much time and money on realizing these projects, and they deserve to sell as many copies as possible. ”


The Nieuw Ensemble, one of the world’s leading ensembles for contemporary music, will play works of Chinese composers during two concerts at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) in Beijing on 6 and 7 November. The ensemble (conducted by Jac van Steen) will perform music by Guo Wenjing, Chen Qigang, Dmitri Shostakovich, Toru Takemitsu, Pierre Boulez and Luciano Berio. The Nieuw Ensemble was one of the first ensembles to introduce the music of Chinese contemporary composers like Tan Dun, Qu Xiaosong, Xu Shuya, Chen Qigang and Guo Wenjing to the west in the 1990s. The group has remained an ardent champion of Chinese music ever since: they premiered no less than 75 compositions by Chinese composers in The Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, and many of these works were written especially for the group. Composer Guo Wenjing has stated that ‘(the ensemble) will be recorded in the history of Chinese music because of its unique contribution to contemporary Chinese music’. The group previously toured China with Ed Spanjaard (the group's principal conductor since 1982), with concerts in Shanghai and Beijing in 1997. This is their second visit. For the programmes, check or For more on the Nieuw Ensemble, check

This is one of a series of upcoming visits to China by Dutch performance groups in October-November, following the Dutch government's decision (in 2005) to designate China as a ‘priority country’ for cultural contacts. Other groups who will tour China in this period include the Netherlands Dance Theatre (14-25 October), the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (4, 5 and 7 November), the Orchestra of the Eighteenth Century (13-14 November) and representants of the centre for electronic music STEIM (3-7 November). For more on these activities, check, or write to to receive the bi-monthly Dutch Cultural (e-)Newsletter of the Dutch Embassy in Beijing.


The E-institute of Music Anthropology in Shanghai (Shanghai Gaoxiao Yinyue Renleixue E-yanjiuyuan), established in 2005, has entered its second work-phase (2008-2010). The following researchers were especially appointed for this period: Professors Luo Qin, Yang Yandi, Xiao Mei, Han Zhong’en, and Tang Yating from the Shanghai Conservatory, Prof. Guan Jianhua from Nanjing Normal University, Prof. Xue Yibing from the Music Research Insitute (Beijing), Professors Song Jin and Yang Minkang from the Central Conservatory (Beijing), Prof. Shen Tung from National Taiwan University, Prof. Helen Rees from UCLA Los Angeles (USA) and Prof. Su Zheng from Weslyan University (USA). The Institute has established various study groups and has organized annual lecture series in Shanghai, Nanjing and Beijing; it also organizes international meetings. It currently aims at estabishing an educational base and a showcase for the protection of China’s intangible music culture in the Yangtze delta area, where elaborate field research was conducted during the past few years. With ‘Heart and Sound’ as a theme, it also plans to organize an annual (or even biannual) Music Culture Festival to give some of the ideas of Music Anthropology a wider public impact. Meanwhile, work continues on a number of serial publications, including such topics as Shanghai Music History and Culture, Research on Chinese Traditional Music, Chinese Music Research from Western Points of View, and Translations of Prominent Western Writings on Music Anthropology.

[Source: Prof. Xiao Mei]


70 Million visitors are expected at the World Expo 2010, an international fair of Olympic dimensions – and with broad cultural, social and economic objectives – will be held in Shanghai in two years from now. A five-square-kilometer area at the core of the city will serve as the Expo Park, and will be devoted to exhibitions, contemporary architecture, performance events and forums on the Expo theme, ‘Better City, Better Life.’ Numerous countries will present concerts and theatre performances in the framework of the expo; the Edinburgh Arts Festival, the Salzburg Music Festival and numerous other festivals will contribute programmes. Expect to hear many genres listed in the UN ‘World Intangible Cultural Heritage’ list during the Expo (or in the period leading up to it), from Japanese Noh to Mongolian folk song, from African tribal music to Kun opera and guqin. No details on dates and performers are available yet, but they will be published on the Expo’s website in due course:

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