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Listening Attentively to Cultural Fragmentation: Tradition and Composition in Works by East Asian Composers

Christian Utz
The World of Music
Vol. 45, No. 2, Traditional Music and Composition: For György Ligeti on his 80th Birthday (2003), pp. 7-38
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41700058
Page Count: 32
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Listening Attentively to Cultural Fragmentation: Tradition and Composition in Works by East Asian Composers
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Abstract

Research on encounters between traditional non-Western music and contemporary compositional practice tends to neglect detailed musical analysis in favour of extensive socio-cultural or political theoretical frameworks. This article is an attempt to link these two diverse branches of musical scholarship. At first, two examples of crosscultural musical appropriations point at the "bouncing" quality of musical inter culturality: repercussions of a Drinking Song of the Taiwanese aborigines Ami and of the Chinese melody Molihua ("Jasmine Flower") suggest that "authenticity" in a strict sense has until the present often played a minor role in musical creation or daily musical practice. After reflecting on the impact of the concept of "composition" for both Western and non-Western music as a precondition of contemporary musical creation, examples are introduced of relevant works by East Asian composers in between implicit and explicit references to Asian musical material. The tension between nearness and distance to traditional and contemporary idioms and the challenge to find a balance between identification and criticism towards a cultural "Self and a cultural "Other" are crucial aspects of compositional practice for some composers in Korea, China, Taiwan and Japan. Musical works by Koo Bonu, Kim Eun-Hye, Kim Jin-Hi, Guo Wenjing, Chen Xiaoyong, Hsu Po-Yun and Takahashi Yūji successfully reflect on essentialized concepts of culture and thus arguably can represent substantial counterdiscourses to the globally dominating system of Western music—a main criterion for the definition of a contemporary East Asian "avant-garde."

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