Chime Journal 10-11, 1997


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Journal Of The European Foundation for Chinese Music Research

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C.71I5tlE_1ouma!!J{ps.10-11 (Spri'!!! I JLlutumn 1997) Editors: Frank Kouwenhoven Antoinet Schirnmelpenninck Published March 1999 Leiden, The Netherlands


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CHIME, joumal of the European Foundation for Chinese Music Research, appears twice a year. For subscription details and back orders, contact the CHIME Office : P .O.Box 11092, 2301 EB Leiden, The Netherlands. Tel (+31-71) 5133.974 or 5133. 123. Fax (+31-71) 5123.183. E-mail: chime@ Postal giro: 6255037, c/o Chime, Leiden. Bankers : MeesPierson, P.O. Box 749, Rotterdam, Holland, no. Yisiting address of the CHIME Library: Gerecht I, Leiden . GENERAL BOARD Stephen Jones, London, UK Frank Kouwenhoven, Leiden, Holland Barbara Mittler, Univ. of Heidel berg, Germany François Picard, Paris IV Sorbonne, France Tan Hwee San, SOAS London, UK LIAISON OFFICERS Helen Rees, UCLA, USA Wu Ben, Univ. of Pittsburgh, USA Wang Hong, San Jose, USA Li Shuqin, Central Conservatory, Beijing, PRC Dai Xiaolian, Shanghai Conservatory, PRC Jo Riley, Zomheim, Germany HONORARY MEMBERS Laurence Pieken, Cambridge, UK Barbara Mittler, Univ. of Heidel berg, Germany EDITORlAL BOARD Giovanni Giuriati, Cambodian Studies, Rome Georges Goormaghtigh, Sinology, Geneva Barend ter Haar, Sinology, Univ. of Heidelberg Keith Howard, Music Dept., SOAS London David Hughes, Music Dept., SOAS London Stephen Jones , Music Dept., SOAS, London Schu Chi Lee, Ethnomusicology, Berlin Barbara Mittler, Sinology , Univ. of Heidelberg Jonathan Stock, Music Dept., Univ . of Sheffield Mark Trewin, University of Edinburgh, Schotland Dai Xiaolian, Shanghai Conservatory of Music PROOFREADING I TRANSLA T10NS Rita DeCoursey, Leiden University Gao Ying, Leiden Peri Bearman, Leiden EDITORS CHIME JOURNAL Frank Kouwenhoven Antoinet Schimmelpenninck PHOTO CREDITS Beijing Jazz Festival: 132, 133 Cheng Yu (courtesy): 51,232 Chime Archive: 52 Chow Yiufai: 124, 126 Dai Xiaolian (courtesy): 142 Mattheus Engel, Amsterdam: 8, 41 (1994) Rachel Harris (courtesy): 233 Jonathan IJdis: front cover (1994) Frank Kouwenhoven: 11 (1997), 56 (1998), 63 (1997), 140, 141 (1998), 229 (1995) Ivan Kyncl, London: 31 (top/bottom: 1998), 120 (1998) Alice Piemme, Brussels: 113 (1998) Lincoln Potter, Hong Kong: 190 Dennis Rea (courtesy): 130 Didi Sattmann, Vienna: 117 ( 1998) Xu Jian, Beijing (courtesy): 58 Yao Gongbai, Shanghai (courtesy) : 53 Wang Hong (courtesy): 234 Zhang Xingrong (courtesy): 147, 155 Printed by Ridderprint B.V ., Ridderkerk , 1999 ISSN 0926-7263 This double issue was printed with generous supportfrom the International lnstitute for Asian Studies (llAS) in Leiden, The Netherlands. Front cover: Guo Wenjing with local opera musicians in Sichuan during the shooting of Eline Flipse's film Broken Silence in 1994.


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CRIM'E_fouma!Si\/Ps.10-11 (SpnÎ!!f I J2lutumn1997) Published March 1999 Table of Contents From the Editor Barbarian Pipes Porever - Some thoughts on Chinese culture and nationalism Guo Wenjing-a camposer's portrait: 'The strings going hong hong hong and the percussion bong kèèh - that' s my voice! ' The precarious state of the qin in contemporary China- The Beijing Guqin Research Association Minhe Mangghuer kugurjia songs- 'Mirror-bright hearts and poor Jives' Discontinuity in guqin temperament prior to the 15th century. An investigation of temperament of guqin music as evidenced inShen Qi Mi Pu . New Chinese Operas by Qu Xiaosong, Tan Dun and Guo Wenjing Sounds from the margin -Beijing rock scene faces an uncertain future China witnesses a sudden vogue for jazz- The Land tour and the emergence of jazz in China Lively exchange during 'East Asian Strings' Report on the 3rd international Chime meeting A new discovery: traditional 8-part polyphonic singing of the Hani of Yunnan Life cycle rituals and their music among the Mosuo of Yongning For gods or men: changing facesof I wam i kagura 'West River Moon'- A song-melody predicted by a lute-piece in piba tablature 3 Frank Kouwenhoven & A. Sehimmelpenninek 8 Cheng Yu 50 Zhu Yongzhong, Qi Huimin & Kevin Stuart Yu Hui (trans!. Chr. Evans) 62 79 111 Frank Kouwenhoven Chow Yiu Fai & Jeroen de Kloet Dennis Rea 123 129 139 Frank Kouwenhoven Zhang Xingrong (trans!. H. Rees) Li Wei 145 (trans!. H. Rees) Terenee Laneashire Laurenee Pieken, N.J. Niekson, M. Wells 153 157 172


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BOOK REVIEW Rachel Harris Jonathan Stock- Musical Creativity in TwentiethCentury China: Abing, His Music, and lts Changing Meanings. CD REVIEWS 186 Cheng Yu, Julian Joseph, Frank Kouwenhoven Helen Rees Stephen Jones Frank Kouwenhoven Frank Kouwenhoven Music Beyond Sound. The Silk String Zither. John Thompson, guqin Dongjing Music in Yunnan, China, Vols 1 and 2. Xi'an Drums Music (Xi'an guyue) Tan Dun: Ghost Opera, Marco Polo and other works Urna Chahartugchi et al.: Tal Nutag FILM & VIDEO REVIEWS 189 195 197 200 203 A. Schimmelpenninck 'Half a Life: a Zoologist's Quest for Music. The life and work of Dr. Laurence Pieken. Video film . 'Broken Silence'. Video I Film. ANNOUNCEMENTS 213 214 A. Schimmelpenninck Announcements About the authors 216 235 A note on Chime Nos. 10/11 'Chinese music and nationalism' featuredas an important discussiontopic in the CHIME meeting 'Barbarian Pipes and Strings', held in Heidelberg from I to 4 October 1998. Reports on that meeting will follow in CHIME nos. 12113 (originally scheduled for 1998, now due out in the summer of 1999). The present double issue of our journal, in a new lay-out, has a report on 'East Asian Strings', the CHIME conference held in Leiden in 1997. It also features various papers read at the Rotterdam CHIME meeting of 1995. More papers from both meetings will follow in nos. 12/13. We will firmly attempt to overtake our delay in publication and to get back to a normal schedule with our joumal in the course of 1999. (The long delay was due to the faunding of the CHIME library. The library was made fully operational in Leiden over the past three years.) For practical reasons, we have not included here the third part of A. Schimmelpenninck' s series of articles on Chinese folk singers in Jiangsu Province: her book on this subject was published by CHIME last year.


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Barbarian Pipes Porever - some thoughts on Chinese culture and nationalism With the ancient Greeks and Romans- and with contemporary Americans- the Chinese share the ironical situation that they are profoundly alien to many civilizations by which they have been influenced. Ancient Mesopotamia, pre-Islamie Iran, India, Islam and the Christian West all contributed to the creation of what we recognize today as one of the greatest and most diversified cultures of the world- that of the Chinese people. Processes of sinification and continuous cross-cultural exchange, as wel! as vehement resistance to cultural exchange, are certainly visible in the realm of music. Chinese instruments like the erhu, pipa, yangqin, guanzi and suona are Chinese adaptations of musicalinstrumentsof 'barbarian' (Persian, Arabian and Central Asian) origin. Along with the many foreign instruments and voices came foreign scales, foreign theories of tuning and temperament, foreign spiritual concepts. Even Chinese Buddhist music, though recognized today as an indigenous product, did notescape formative Indian influences in the early stages of its development in China. Ongoing sinification can be observed in the present century, as wel! , when Chinese orchestras are modelled after the Western symphony orchestra, when blindstreet musicians are styled composers, or when Chinese contemporary music is created by infusing Westernstyle genres with Chinese texts and tunes. Meanwhile, ethnic tribes of non-Han Chinese origin continue to practice their own musical rituals and traditions on Chinese soil, sometimes carefully preserving ethnic identities, sometimes fusing freely with other tribal cultures, or with what is now recognized as Han Chinese culture. In brief, there is tremendous variety, basedon extensive contact between different cultures. Yet at various times in history Chinese rulers and leading intellectuals have denied or attempted to curb foreign impact on their country's acknowledged native musical traditions. From the 4th to 7th centuries AD the struggle for politica! supremacy between the south and the north was partly a struggle between the maintenance of Chinese traditions and the absorption of foreign ideas. During the Tang dynasty (618-907), a rich degree of cultural synthesis culminated in many new eclectic musical works, some so successful that they travelled from China to Japan, Tibet or India. From the late Song to the rise of the Ming dynasty in the I 4th century, musical exchange with adjacent cultures was less visible, at least on the administrative and court levels on which our musical knowledge of these periods largely depends . Attempts to downplay the impact of foreign music - or any other foreign cultural influence, for that matter - are not necessarily based on downright antagonism or xenophobia. The emotional and intellectual foundations of the belief in cultural purity are


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4 Cliime 10-11 (Spring!Jtutumn 1997) rather more complicated. China, ever since it outgrew its status of an ancient religious warrior monarchy, has depended for millennia on small, highly centralized governments. The ruler's first task was to preserve and reinforce social and politica! cohesion in a vast geographical area, and by every conceivable means. This included the promotion - at first primarily among the ruling scholarly elite - of powerful emblems and assets of Chinese culture. Civil servants were expected to adhere to court musical rites and to the politica! tenets for which these stood. To what ex tent popular culture in China was affected by such policies befare the age of mass communications is very difficult to say. The fact remains that musical emblems of China and of Chineseness were used by the authorities to project an image of cultural and politica! unity upon the entire nation, even if part of the music was created in interaction with foreign cultures and foreign tongues. A country may attempt to prescribe shared cultural characteristics on a nationallevel, but the point of departure is usually an existing notion of group solidarity. The solidarity may be real or imagined, but the sense of belonging together, of sharing similar goals and interests, of depending on one another for support and recognition, is of all times and all places. lt has its roots in the evaJution of social behaviour, and occurs in many forms: families, clans, tribes, religious sects, trade unions, and regional corporations. Ultimately, it manifestsitself on the level of nations, under the heading of nationalism. There is disagreement among scholars about the exact mechanisms involved in the rise of nationalism (in China or elsewhere), and about its status in history. Benedict Anderson and Ernest Gellner have defined nationalism as a pre-eminently modern phenomenon. States or nations may have been in place for several centuries, they say, but a genuine national consciousness did not emerge until the industrial age. Gellner argues that, in agrarian communities, everyone's place was still narrowly defined, so much so that no nationalist sentiments were needed to serve as binding agents. With the advent of the industrial age, social mobility increased enormously, providing people with a much wider range of jobs and positions, and with a need to be abie to rapidly exchange one type (or location) of work for another. To 'oil' the mobility of such a society, a shared cultural backdrop was needed, sarnething that all its members, at different class levels, recognized as a common denominator. 1 Benedict Anderson has stressed different factors, notably the gradual decline of the ancient 'sacred' monarchy and the transfer of politica! power and knowledge to a wider community, all of which he views as defining features of modern nationalism2 Another scholar, Prasenjit Duara, is unwilling to accept such a strong divide between the modern and the premodern when it comes to defining the development and historica! impact of nationalism. 'In neither modern nor premodern society', says Duara, 'is it possible to sustain the notion of a unified consciousness presumed by the concept of nationalism. ( ... ) Individuals and groups in both modern and agrarian societies identify simultaneously with several communities, all of which are imagined. These identities are historically changeable and often conflict internally and with each other.'3 1 Ernest Gelloer- Nations and Nationalism. Cornell University Press, 2 Benedict Anderson - Imagined Communities: Rejlections on the Ithaca, 1983. Origins and Spread of Nationalism. London, 1983 (revised reprint: 1991). Rescuing History from the Nation; Questioning Narratives of Modern China. The Univ. of Chicago Press, 1995, pp. 52-54. See also the introductory chapter to : Theodore Huters, R. Bin Wong, and Pauline Yu (Eds .)- Culture and State in Chinese History. Stanford UP, California, 1997, pp. 1-26. 3 Prasenjit Duara-


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:Trom tfie 'Eáitor 5 True enough, people in the Chinese countryside identify primarily with their own regional and village cultures, while acknowledging that they also belong to a larger, national community. This situation may nothave been very different in the past. Musicologist Liang Mingyue has stressed the overriding importance of regional identity in Chinese music. Local agricultural and fishing societies in China all have their own typical styles of folk song, theatre, ritual and dance music, as wel! as their own dialects. Music and language serve as clear boundary markers on local and regionallevels. Naturally, what the villagers sing and play is still shaped, throughout the centuries, by extensive cultural exchange, as a consequence of complex networks of trade, and patterns of travel and migration. But the linking of local villages to the wider culture of China cannot be said to have resulted in a single 'national identity'. For most people in China, the smell of home is the flavour of local dishes, the local language, local musical sounds, etc. While cultural exchange throughout the ages and the gradual growth of common cultural ideas did result in the emergence of national genres like kunqu and Peking opera, the majority of living musical traditions in China remain local or regional in style, and tied to regional audiences. Then what about the notion of a modern nationalism along the lines of Anderson and Gellner? Does it have no relevanee for China? Wel!, we don't have to accept their theories wholesale in order to recognize that a huge shift occurred in twentieth century China, with respect to nationalist consciousness. This period did mark the birth of a more mobile, more literate and culturally more standardized population in large urban areas of China, and modern mass communications media helped establish, quite rapidly, and on an unprecedented scale, new cultural doctrines. One factor that links modern Chinese nationalism with earlier manifestations of nationalist consciousness is that it continues to work as a 'container notion': people put into it what they like. In the past, China was a nation of great philosophical systems and literary achievements for some, and a land of brilliant military strategies and grand politica! unifications for others. But under Mao Zedong, and for vast new generations of Chinese, it became primarily a land of communal folk culture and of peasant power - the land of the 'White-haired girl' and of Maoïst songs for the masses, learned (though not always with the same level of enthusiasm) in every school and factory. The marriage of nationalism with communism, in an age of rapid industrialization, forged a unique brand of 'national culture', almost as widely effective, and probably as one-sided in approach as any of the former national creeds (Confucianism, Taoism, and toa much lesser extent Buddhism). Nowadays the word nationalism may be tainted, in many people's eyes, with virulent racism and warmongering. In Europe it is widely viewed as the primary cause of two successive world wars and of numerous regional wars and conflicts. But nationalism has also resulted in !ega! constitutions, in nationally shared facilities for education and health care, in opportunities for participation in a protected economy, and has led to many great works of (nationalist-inspired) art and music. There is no reason to criticize (let alone dispense with) national symbols as long as they help to maintain effective institutions of social proteetion and economie opportunity. Nationalism is not 'good' or 'bad' in principle. The question is what nationalism did to Chinese culture, more specifically to music, once it achieved the massive ideological impact of a populist movement in the twentieth century. Initially, the dream of unityin China brought out the multifarious qualities and cultural strengths that China's intellectual soil was believed to possess. Nationalism breathed new life into ancient myths and stories, revived interest in local folklore and, in the critica! war years


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6 Cftime 10-11 (Spring!YI.utumn 1997} of the 1940s, helped keep a vast and dangerously disrupted country together. Never before in history were so many Chinese people -including peasants - confronted with a unified view of their country, and with eloquent expressionsof it in music heard and played all over China. But in this same period nationalism also took on the grim aspect of a secular religion, a violent creed that downplayed local and regional achievements, killed much of the folklore it was supposed to protect, and destroyed languages and people, again on an unprecedented scale. Nationalism received so much calculated emphasis that, today, it has become difficult for anthropologists and historians to assess the true extent of cultural diversity in the People's Republic in the past: nationalism has crushed a great deal of local culture; it has become a smokescreen for continuing local traditions. Now that communism and marxism are no longer effective creeds in the People's Republic (except in name), nationalism seems to be the only remaining 'ism' that can still aspire to 'unify' the country- that is, to make a vast number of people in China rally behind a comrnon flag. It continues to be astrong factor, particularly in urban culture and art (which is politically more potent than rural art because it is better financed). Nationalist sentiments are a top-heavy Maoist heritage, though treated today with a lot more caution than a few decades ago . Divorced from its violent partner, communism, the dream of national unity is no Jonger an imminent threat totreedom of thought and expression in the People' s Republic, even if the situation today may still not be ideal. The void of communism is rapidly being filled with new upsurges of patriotic fervour and quests for Chinese 'roots'. Chinese composers write 'ritual operas' and works full of references to a remote and mythical past. There is a widespread and booming interest in China's classica! literature, not just among intellectuals, but also among a much wider audience who view the classics as mass entertainment. There is renewed popular interest in the revolutionary songs and model operas of the communist era. These seem to have lost some of their connotations of violence and repression of the past, and have become more generalized symbols of national togetherness and nostalgia. People forget what the lyrics mean , and enjoy the tunes. There is also a booming commercial market for Maoist disco songs. The praise of Red leadership is sung to a rapid beat. Youngsters seem indifferent to the words, or enthusiastic about them fortheir provocativeness. A further potent symbol of modern nationalism in China is the book China can say no, a nationwide bestseller in 1996, which calls fora return to the fervent patriotism and anti-imperialism of (pre-)liberation days. It is impossible to predict what direction Chinese nationalism will take in the future . All options remain open, including the gloomy prospect of extreme antagonism towards the West, as sketched in Samuel Huntington' s The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order (1996). Hopefully it will not come to that. In this respect, native Chinese artists have a clear responsibility . Nationalism cannot offer an answer to all questions, and it can become an obstacle to peace and to international co-operation, in the cultural field or in some other realm. A vast number of the world's problems today require international solutions. Ecological crises, refugee movements, migration, racism, criminality, the increasing power of multinationals, the flow of capita!, tax dodging, the export of jobs and expertise, the future of the social welfare state- all these problems can no longer be solved exclusively within nationalist frameworks, or on the basis of patriotic sentiments. In view of this, it seems outdated and frivolous to rally behind national flags and sing songs or compose symphonies that promo te forms of ethnic or national solidarity.


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:Trom tfie 'Eáitor 7 Fortunately , artists- and particularly musicians and composers- are often daring traveilers in time and space. They manage to cross national borders and initiate intercultmal 'joint ventures' . Artists began doing this long before the first businessmen set up their multinationals and created comparable crossovers in the economie realm. Throughout history, adventurers of the mind have created artistic visionsof a world unified in diversity . Among contemporary Chinese artists, one obvious exponent of this trend is Tan Dun, whose compositions are world-embracing in their incorporation of different musical styles, genres and epochs . Yet it was also Tan Dun who, with his Symphony 1997, written on the occasion of the return of Hong Kong to China, evoked critica! comments from people like Allan Kozinn of the New York Times. In the context of the HongKong celebrations, Tan's symphony (with children ' s choir and ancient bells) came close to recalling China's blatant propaganda music of the 1960s, though this can hardly have been what Tan Dun intended. Perhaps it is symptomatic for the present cultural dilemma of the People ' s Republic that two diametrically opposed attitudes- histrionic patriotism versus all-embracing globalism come together, and clash, in the music of the country's most esteemed and most successful composer. One thing is the belief in universa! human values; another is to find a suitable native musical language to express it. No one in Europe today aspires to establishing a national (Czech , Scandinavian or Spanish etc .) musical style, as Smetana, Grieg, De Falla and others did a full century ago. Will the quest fora national style become obsolete in China, too ? Hard to say. In any event, its replacement should not necessarily beself-indulgent individualism. The need of artists to be ' true to themselves ' is only another myth to serve its term as long as it lasts . If art continues to carry a moral message, anywhere in the world, it must be a different one. In the age of globalization, the need to communicate with people across ethnic and politica! harriers remains a more likely (and universa!) main theme for artistic exploration. No society and no individual human being is isolated enough to have a culture or a history of its own . In a deep and revealing sense, all culture is cross-culture, all ruusic is fusion , all history is mul ti-lingua!, and any form of ethnic or national 'purity ' is by definition a dangerous hoax. The dignity of human beings and the long-term survival of cultures cannot depend on a belief in exclusively national values- if it has ever done so in the first place. In China, as elsewhere, it depends on a fair recognition of people' s constant indebtedness to others, regardless of ethnic or politica! divisions. Ultimately, the very act of 'maintaining' culture may be about honouring our wish to be changed - about fearing , respecting, venerating and loving the stranger in ourselves. Frank Kouwenhoven


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GUO WENJING-A COMPOSER'S PORTRAIT 'The strings going hong hong hong and the percussion bong kèèh that' s my voice!' The smell of the Russian earth is different; and such things are impossible to forget. .. A man has one birthplace, one fatherland, one country- he can have on ly one country- the place of his birth is the most important factor in his life. lgor Stravinsky His music is often dark, wild, and mysterious, saturated with the brooding and eerie atmosphere of Chongqing, his native town. His orchestral and theatre pieces deal with man-eaters, witchcraft, mysterious coffins on mountain cliffs and age-old inscriptions on animal bones. By contrast, his latest opera, Night Banquet, commissioned by the Almeida Theatre in London (premiere 10 ]uly 1998) explores a more lyrica[ vein. 1n daily life, Chinese composer Guo Wenjing (41) is hardly a brooding or mysterious character. But he can be gruff and short-tempered, which may well contribute to the punchy and violent edge to some of his compositions. In this interview - a compilation of several discussions held in the course of 1997 - Guo talks about his youth and early career, his music, his artistic successes and failures. He reflects on his work as a teacher, his travels, his future plans, and expresses a critica[ view of contemporary music: 'So many followers of Boulez and Stockhausen have been turned into slaves... Slaves of numbers, of "structures". Composers must be liberated again.' Frank Kouwenhoven & Antoinet Schimmelpenninck (Ch ime Foundation, Leiden, The Netherlands) We met Guo Wenjing for the first time in Beijing in June 1990. It was one year after the Tian'anmen protestsin China. It was also shortly after Guo's return from Chongqing, where he had spent seven years working for a provincial song and dance troupe. Antoinet and I were impressed by the power and drive of his orchestral piece Suspended Ancient Caifins on the Clif.fs in Sichuan (1983), which we had heard on a commercial tape, and we hoped to find out more about this intriguing composer, reported to be one of China's new talents in avant-garde music. We chancedon Guo in a dark corridor of a dormitory at the Central Conservatory, and went to his working room, which was bare except fora piano and some neatly stored pi les of music. Toa certain extent Guo resembied his music: a sturdy fellow, full of gusto, straightforward, sametimes a bit stubborn and on his guard. He would punctuate his speech with impatient gestures, streams of onomatopoeic words and sudden outbursts of anger or enthusiasm.


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10 Chime 10-11 (Spring/J'l.utumn 1997) In these aspects, Guo hasn ' t changed much over the years. He still tencts to interrupt his sentences with hasty cigarette puffs, and to cut them off prematurely, with grunts and snorts. No appetite for fine worcts or high-brow theorizing. He likes to laugh - at his own plain statements or at questions he doesn't care to answer. At times he falls silent to the point of making his visitors fee! uneasy. There is a distinctly peasant-like quality to him. Guo loves soccer. He looks like a soccer player. We have foliowed Guo Wenjing's career from its beginnings in Beijing to his recent successes in Europe, when he began to be recognized as a major Asian composer. Antoinet joined Guo on a trip along the Yangzi River in 1994, when a film was made about him and other composers of avant-gardemusic in China. 1 She servedas an interpreter for Guo when his works were rehearsed in Holland. And she was my interpreter and assistant in the recent talks we had with him- especially if my own Chinese was not up to the job, or if I forgot to ask essential questions2 No theory, no motto Guo Wenjing was born on the I st of February 1956 in Sichuan, in southwestern China. His father was on the medica! staff of a local hospita!. His mother worked there as a nurse. He graduated from the Central Conservatory in Beijing in 1983. He now Jives in Beijing with his wife Cheng Yan and his nine-year-old daughter, and was appointed Head of the Central Conservatory's Composition Department in January 1998. Guo has written numerous orchestral and chamber works, over forty scores for films and television plays, and two operas. His most successful works have major parts for human voices and for Chinese or Western percussion. Guo grew up in Chongqing in the rural south, amidst the rough cries of boat people, and the !oud banging of percussion players in ritual opera. This world seems to be brought to life again in his own works. His interest in music started at the age of twelve, when his parents gave him a violin. They hoped to keep him indoars and away 'My workis not based from the street violence of the Cultural Revoon any theories. I have lution. The darker si des of Chinese history ring no motto. I follow my through many of his mature compositions, perhaps nowhere more convincingly than in Wolf heart.' Cub Village (1994), the dramatic opera that marked his international breakthrough. This work was performed with great success in major cities across Europe, and resulted in a contract with the Italian publisher Ricordi and in numerous new commissions. The triumphant reception of recent pieces like Inscriptions on Bone (1996) has further boosted Guo ' s confidence. 'I think two things are required for an artist to succeed,' he says. 'Freedom, and naturalness.' In a 1994 film about new Chinese composers, he states: 'My workis not based on any theories. I have no motto. I just follow my heart.' 1 2 De Oogst van de Stilte (Broken Silence), Eline Flipse & Erik van Empel , Sacrabee Films, The Netherlands, 1994, 80 minutes. The main interviews for this artiele took place in Leiden, 13 March 1997, and in Beijing, 2 July 1997. The in formation was supplemented with the help of notes from earlier talks, phone calls and faxes, excerpts from newspaper clippings, artiel es in Chinese joUI·nals, and so me of Guo's own writings.


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Çuo Wenjing- Jl. Camposer's Portrait 11 Guo Wenjingin front of a sculpture of revolutionary composer Nie Er. Early childhood Guo lives on the sixth floor of an apartment building in the compound of the Beijing Conservatory. His home is located next toa dilapidated traditional building where China's last emperor, Pu Yi, was born in 1906. There is no elevator. When we enter his apartment on a very hot day in July, the composer appears in a dark-blue T-shirt and shorts , apologizing forthefact that his air-conditioning has just broken down. 'I've notbeen able to do much work,' he complains. We decide to find a cool restaurant in the vicinity of the Conservatory compound, to talk and to eat. His hair, normally an unkempt shrubbery that accentuates his boyishness, has just been trimmed, which makes him look even more boyish. Near the main entrance of the Conservatory, he posesfora photo in front of a sculpture of revolutionary composer Nie Er. He mimics the stern look of his predecessor, who is a celebrity in China: 'The most frequently played composer on Chinese radio!' 3 Guo Wenjing started his careerin a different era, the post-Mao period of the late 1970s, when China was reeavering from its revolutionary excesses and the country began to open its doors to the outside world. Consequently, Guo has been given more freedom to follow his own voice . The chamber pieces he wrote as a student in Beijing in 1979-81 are full of dark and sombre sounds which would have been unthinkable in the revolutionary years . These early works and his childhood in Sichuan are the starting-point for our conversation. 3 Nie Er wrote the tune of the Chinese National Anthem.


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12 Chimel0-11 (Spring!Jlutumn1997} Do your early works reflect your personal circumstances ? GWJ: 'No, not really. Both my parents were CCP members. They were well-off. My father had been with the Communist Party since 1937, initially as an army man. He was a loc al official, later the director of a large hospita!, so we had a fairly good life at home. There were three children in the family, my older brother, my younger sisterand I. I was aware of the difficulties that other people had to go through. My parents regularly sent money via the post office to their relatives in northern China, who were very poor. When my father left the arrny and travelled to his native village in Hebei, he was so embarrassed by his relatives' poverty that he left all his dothes behind. My grandfather on the paternal side was an extremely poor farmer; he had no land of his own, and he died of dysentery, having no money to buy medicine.' Your family came from the north, but you grew up in a city in the south ? GWJ: 'Yes, in Chongqing. The Communists had chased away the Guomindang; they were the victorious party. CCP memhers like my parents could afford to move to the south, to start a new life in the city, while their relatives stayed behind in the north. Wasthere no poverty in or near Chongqing, then ? GWJ: ' Oh , I could see what rural poverty meant in the south , too. City life in Chongqing 'Nowadays, you are was still fairly close to life in the countryside. Peasants would row their boats with deafened by all the vegetables, meat and fish straight to town on loud music played in the Yangzi River every day. After selling their goods they would stuff their empty boats with the str·eets. Music has human shit- good fertilizer- and row home. lost its clarity and Throngs of villagers crowded the city every day , and many of them were very poor. There sense of mystery.' were also folk artists around, story tellers and opera singers, who performed in teahouses. Nowadays there's no Jonger a market for folk artists - but in those days there was no television, you see. On my way to school I passed teahouses that had live music. And sametimes I would stand in the door and peep in. Not that I was all that much interested in music. I preferred to play outdoors ... What sort of games ? Oh, roll a hoop, spin a top. The kinds of things children do. Shooting with a catapult. Many of these games have now disappeared. ' The way of all folklore ... !t's like what happens with traditional mus ie. GWJ: ' Yes, a lot of music which was still around in my youth has disappeared. Genres like Peking and Sichuan Opera are dying . They are too much embedded in a traditional way of 1ife that is rapidly losing ground. The same goes for folk songs. We used to have boatmen's songs. Hey-hey .. . hey-hey ... ! Beautiful, long drawn-out cries. You could hear them sung on the Yangzi River, basically on every other riverin Sichuan, too. After school I would go down to the Yangzi to swim. I would watch people who hauled boats upstream with long



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