The integration of Chinese opera traditions into new musical compositions : thesis submitted to the the New Zealand School of Music in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Music in Composition

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Massey University
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Almost fifty years ago Chinese composer Chou Wen-chung proposed a musical “re-merger” of East and West. For many Chinese composers of today a sense of historical continuity and an awareness of inherited musical traditions are important contributor to cultural identity, and a basis on which to build the future. The generation that emerged after the Cultural Revolution found new freedoms, and has become, at the beginning of the twentyfirst century, a significant presence on the international musical stage, as the paradigm shifts away from being European-centered, to a culture belonging to the “global village”. As with many other Chinese composers of my generation, the creation of new compositions is both a personal expression and a manifestation of cultural roots. Techniques of “integration” and “translation” of musical elements derived from traditional Chinese music and music-theatre are a part of my musical practice. The use of traditional Chinese instruments, often in combination with Western instruments, is a no longer a novelty. The written exegesis examines some of the characteristic elements of xìqǜ (戏 曲) (the generic term for all provincial Chinese operas), including dǎ (打) (percussion - an enlarged interpretation of dǎ, as found in chuānjù gāoqiāng (川剧高腔) Sichuan gāoqiān opera), bǎnqiāng (板 腔) (The musical style that characterizes Chinese xìqǚ), and niànbái (念 白) (recitation and dialogue), as well as the kuàibǎnshū (快板书) (storytelling with percussion) of qǚyì (曲 艺) (a term to use to include all folk genres), and shāngē (山 歌) (mountain song). The techniques employed in integrating and translating these elements into original compositions are then analyzed. In the second volume of the thesis the scores of five compositions are presented, four of the five works are set in Chinese, exploring the dramatic aspects of language, and may be considered music-theatre, one being an opera scene intended for stage production.
DVD of performance recording available with the hard copy of the thesis in the library
Chinese opera, Music theatre scores