Du Yun wins Pulitizer

Source: NPR (4/10/17)
Du Yun Wins Music Pulitzer For ‘Angel’s Bone’

Du Yun, 39, has won the music Pulitzer for her opera Angel’s Bone. Matthew Jelacic/Courtesy of the artist

Du Yun, a 39-year-old composer, musician and performance artist, today won the Pulitzer Prize for music for her opera Angel’s Bone. The Pulitzer jury describes the piece as a bold work “that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world.” Angel’s Bone, which has a libretto by the versatile Royce Vavrek (Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves and David T. Little’s Dog Days), was commissioned by New York’s Prototype Festival and Trinity Wall Street, which staged the world premiere Jan. 6, 2016.

The opera tells of a middle-American couple who find a pair of angels dropped into their backyard. They nurse the angels back to health — only to clip their wings and exploit them for money. Continue reading

Dali’s music scene

Source: Sixth Tone (4/7/17)
Reinventing That Old Town Sound
Dali’s Old Town in rural Yunnan province is a refuge for wayward musicians, a bastion of ethnic folk traditions, and a quiet haven for avant-garde Chinese music.
By Josh Feola

Li Daiguo (left) and Wu Huanqing play music outdoors in Dali, Yunnan province, July 11, 2015. Wang Qiong for Wu Huanqing and Li Daiguo

YUNNAN, Southwest China — Nestled between the expansive Erhai Lake to the east and the picturesque Cang Mountains to the west, Dali Old Town is best known as a must-see destination on the Yunnan tourism map. From near and far, tourists flock to Dali for a glimpse of its scenic beauty and its rich cultural heritage, characterized by the high concentration of Bai and Yi ethnic minorities.

But beyond and beneath the waves of people swept up in the region’s ethnic tourism industry, Dali is quietly making a name for itself as a center of musical innovation. In recent years, Dali Old Town — which sits 15 kilometers from the 650,000-strong Dali city proper — has attracted an inordinate number of musicians from both within and outside of China, many of whom are eager to document the region’s musical traditions and repurpose them for new audiences. Continue reading

China’s hottest new “boy” band

Source: Quartz (3/30/17)
China’s hottest new boy band is actually made up of five androgynous girls
By Zheping Huang

Earlier this month, China’s social network giant Tencent held a series of music events called “Husband Exhibition” at Chinese universities. The idea was to showcase new pop stars who appear on the company’s online streaming site; the term “husband” is how China’s female fans refer to male pop stars who are so charming they fantasize about marrying them.

Enter Acrush, a hot new “boy band” that performed at the tour’s last stop in southern Zhejiang province, where the group is based.

They had one big surprise in store for fans: They’re not actually male. Continue reading

Feminist folk quartet

Source: Sixth Tone (3/29/17)
Feminist Folk Quartet Gives Voice to China’s Migrant Workers
By Yin Yijun

Duan Yu, Ren Juan, Xiong Ying, and Ma Wei pose for a photo in front of the violin shop where they rehearse in Beijing, Sept. 17, 2016. Courtesy of Jiu Ye

Duan Yu, Ren Juan, Xiong Ying, and Ma Wei pose for a photo in front of the violin shop where they rehearse in Beijing, Sept. 17, 2016. Courtesy of Jiu Ye

For a band that seek to depict the plight of migrant workers in today’s China, it was an odd choice of music. But like the other numbers in the Beijing-based quartet’s growing repertoire, the song resonates with generations of women both young and old who feel that the country’s fixation on economic development has left them few opportunities to make their voices heard. Continue reading


A bit nauseating, but interesting from a media perspective.–Kirk

Source: Quartz (3/14/17)
China’s first successful home-grown boy band is incredibly wholesome
By Siyi Chen

Chinese entertainment companies and talent agents have been trying to create a home-grown megastar boy band for years. Now, it seems that they have finally succeeded, with a teenage boy band called The Fighting Boys, who sing about homework, winning a Nobel prize, and occasionally, songs like “We’re the future of Communism.” (Check out the video above to get an idea.)

So exactly how popular is this band? Continue reading

Spring Festival Survival Guide

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (1/27/17)
Surviving Chinese New Year With the Family: A Musical How-To

《春節自救指南》- 上海彩虹室內合唱團 “A Spring Festival Survival Guide,” just in time for Chinese New Year’s reunions. Video by Rainbow Chamber Singers | 上海彩虹室内合唱团

BEIJING — Holidays can be joyful times, bringing together long-separated family members. They can also be the most dreaded times for precisely that reason. Things may go horribly wrong under the weight of mutual expectations, and escape is difficult. Continue reading

Cantopop queen on a crusade

Source: SCMP (9/18/16)
Denise Ho: the Cantopop Queen on a crusade against China’s Communist party
She has been labelled ‘Hong Kong poison’ by Beijing, which has also called for her to be boycotted, but the singer is determined to spread her message
By Tom Phillips in Hong Kong

Cantonese pop singer and activist Denise Ho speaks during an interview in Hong Kong.

Cantonese pop singer and activist Denise Ho speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Photograph: Vincent Yu/AP

Denise Ho’s struggle against the Communist party of China began at 5.58pm on a Sunday afternoon. It was as the Hong Kong Cantopop queen watched aghast as live television images showed police fire the first of 87 canisters of teargas into a sea of pro-democracy demonstrators, in a botched bid to quell their protest.

“I couldn’t stand by and just watch everyone fight,” the 39-year-old pop star recalls of the clashes in September 2014 that sparked the former colony’s umbrella movement street occupation, two years ago next week. “I just had to stand up and to say something.” Continue reading

Core socialist values in song and dance

Source: Sinosphere, NYT (9/1/16)
China’s ‘Core Socialist Values,’ the Song-and-Dance Version

BEIJING — The 12 “core socialist values” are memorized by schoolchildren, featured in college entrance exams, printed on stamps and lanterns, and splashed on walls across China. Now they have made their way into 20 song-and-dance routines that the authorities in Hunan Province plan to promote to the country’s millions of “square dancers,” the mostly middle-aged and older women who gather in public squares to perform in unison. Continue reading

Sounding the Modern Woman review

First, a correction regarding John Crespi’s review of A Modern Miscellany announced a few days ago on the list. That review was handled not by Jason McGrath, as I said, but by Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor. My apologies for the mistake.

I am pleased to announce publication of Victor Fan’s review of Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema (Duke UP, 2015), by Jean Ma. The review appears below, but is best read online at:


This review was indeed ushered to publication by Jason McGrath, our media studies book review editor, to whom I am grateful.


Kirk A. Denton, editor

Sounding the Modern Woman:
The Songstress in Chinese Cinema

By Jean Ma

Reviewed by Victor Fan
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2016)

Jean Ma, Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 296 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5876-3 (Paperback: $25.95); ISBN: 978-0-8223-5865-7 (Hardback: $94.95)

Jean Ma, Sounding the Modern Woman: The Songstress in Chinese Cinema. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 296 pp. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5876-3 (Paperback: $25.95); ISBN: 978-0-8223-5865-7 (Hardback: $94.95)

Film historians have long regarded the songstress as the single most important figure in Chinese cinema between the 1930s and 1960s.[1] Played by movie stars including Zhou Xuan周璇 (Chow Hsuen, 1918–57), Bai Guang 白光 (1921–99), Zhong Qing 鍾情 (Chung Ching, b. 1932), Yao Li 姚莉 (Yao Lee, b. 1922), and Ge Lan 葛蘭 (Grace Chang, b. 1933), these songstresses ranged from orphans of war, sex workers, temptresses, nightclub singers, and innocent country girls to the mambo girl, calypso girl, and air hostess. InSounding the Modern Woman (2015), Jean Ma goes beyond an investigation of this emblematic figure as a trope. For her, the songstress is not only an embodiment of the filmmakers’ and spectators’ changing ideas and imaginations of modernity during this period, she is also a discursive site and medium where conflicting values, aspirations, desires, and traumatic memories were actively negotiated (16). Continue reading

Zheng Jun’s ‘Rock Dog’

View the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpaVY8Zq9LQ –Kirk

Source: China Real Time, WSJ (6/30/16)
A Chinese Rock Star’s Hollywood Project: ‘Rock Dog’
By Lillian Lin

The 3-D film 'Rock Dog' follows a rock-loving Tibetan mastiff s journey to a big city to become a musician.

The 3-D film ‘Rock Dog’ follows a rock-loving Tibetan mastiff s journey to a big city to become a musician. PHOTO: HUAYI BROTHERS

Animation has long been a weak spot for China’s film industry. Now, a Chinese rock star is trying to change that, making an animated film for global audiences with Hollywood’s help.

Zheng Jun helmed “Rock Dog,” based on a popular namesake comic-book series he created and published in 2009.

The 3-D film, which follows a rock-loving Tibetan mastiff ’s journey to a big city to become a musician, was directed by Ash Brannon, who co-directed Pixar’s smash hit Toy Story 2 (1999), and animated by Reel FX, an award-winning American digital studio. Its English version is dubbed by a number of Hollywood veterans including the Oscar-winning actor J.K. Simmons. Continue reading

CR-style concert a trap for Xi Jinping

Source: SCMP (5/28/16)
Cultural Revolution-style concert was a well-laid trap for Xi Jinping
Kwan Hing-ling believes the organisers of the Beijing concert that created a public uproar had an ulterior motive – to put pressure on the Chinese president to reverse the official verdict on the decade of upheaval
By Kwan Hing-ling

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution. Reactions on the mainland had been muted at first, and the Chinese press did not seem particularly interested in reviewing the 10 years of devastating upheaval. But a “red-song concert” this month forced the whole of society to sit up.

“In A Field of Hope”, held on May 2 at the Great Hall of the People, featured performers singing and dancing to revolutionary songs popular during the Cultural Revolution, against a backdrop of propaganda posters and slogans. A display of such nostalgia for the Cultural Revolution – in the political centre of China at this politically sensitive time – raised the alarm for many people. Continue reading

Red songs controversy

Source: SCMP (5/6/16)
‘Whole world should unite to defeat the American invaders and their lackeys’: controversy sparked online by ‘red songs’ at concert in Beijing
Music from the turbulent period of the Cultural Revolution featured prominently at event at the Great Hall of the People
By Nectar Gan

Early days of rock in China

Source: What’s On Weibo (4/12/16)
The Early Days of Rock in China – Interview with Sinologist & Hardrocker Jeroen den Hengst China


Dutch Sinologist and musician Jeroen den Hengst was part of the Beijing rock scene when it awakened in the late 1980s. Nearly three decades later, Den Hengst looks back on the early days of rock in China – before, during and after the Tiananmen protests – and talks about the music scene in Beijing and his personal path from young Sinologist to serious hardrocker.

When I notice some glitters sparkling on Den Hengst’s face as I meet him in downtown Amsterdam in early Spring, he nonchalantly brushes them off. He was performing the night before, he tells me. Den Hengst is the host and guitar player of Amsterdam’s Hardrock Karaoke, which has become quite a phenomenon in Amsterdam and beyond. We sit down, order a beer and talk about Den Hengst’s musical journey that started in the early days of China rock. Continue reading

Chen Ta, a wandering bard

Source: Taipei Times (4/10/16)
Taiwan in Time: A wandering bard
Discovered as an old man by the rest of Taiwan in 1962, Chen Ta was famous for his poignant, improvised Hengchun-style folk epics — but lived most of his life in poverty
By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Chen Ta’s portrait as seen on one of his album covers. Photo: Chen Yan-ting, Taipei Times

Armed with a moon lute (月琴, yueqin) — a traditional Chinese string instrument — 73-year-old Chen Ta (陳達) sat in a recording studio with Cloud Gate Theater director Lin Hwai-min (林懷民) in 1978. Lin started to explain to Chen the scene he had in mind from the story of Han Chinese immigration from China to Taiwan when Chen interrupted him.

“I know that story,” Chen said. He asked for two cups of rice wine, adjusted his instrument and launched into a detailed, improvised epic. Three hours later, Lin told Chen they had recorded enough material. Chen protested, “I haven’t gotten to the part about Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) yet!”

He then sang about Chiang, and finished with: “Taiwan became a great place, known by everybody 300 years later.”

That is how Chen, who was illiterate, formed his songs. And he could seemingly go on forever, and was asked at least once to leave the stage because he exceeded his allotted time. Continue reading

Reality show singer breaks taboo

From: Judy Amory <jmamory@post.harvard.edu>
Source: The Guardian (4/1/16)
Reality show singer breaks China’s Cultural Revolution taboo
Yang Le draws applause and tears as song tells of how he lost his father in Mao’s crackdown on perceived enemies, which began 50 years ago
By Tom Phillips in Beijing

Yang Le feared the show’s producers might attempt to censor the lyrics.

Yang Le feared the show’s producers might attempt to censor the lyrics. Photograph: China Dragon TV

N early half a century after his father plunged to his death from the roof of a Beijing university, Yang Le stepped out on to the stage to tell millions of Chinese television viewers how Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution had torn his family apart.

“When I was young we were a family of six … My father was handsome, mum was young and beautiful,” sang the silver-haired contestant on China Star, the country’s answer to the X-Factor. “After the Cultural Revolution only five of us were left.”

When his lament-filled, taboo-breaking performance ended, Yang bit his lower lip. Applause rippled through the theatre; the judges leapt to their feet; tears streamed down cheeks.

Continue reading