AUC Philologica (Acta Universitatis Carolinae Philologica) is an academic journal published by Charles University. It publishes scholarly articles in a large number of disciplines (English, German, Greek and Latin, Oriental, Romance and Slavonic studies, as well as in phonetics and translation studies), both on linguistic and on literary and cultural topics. Apart from articles it publishes reviews of new academic books or special issues of academic journals.
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The Chinese Art Song, yishu gequ: Between Tradition and Modernity
published online: 15. 02. 2022
The Chinese art song, yishu gequ 藝術歌曲, is a typical genre of New Music (Xin yinyue 新音樂) of the May Fourth Movement. Such pieces were primarily composed by Chinese graduates of European and American universities who found inspiration in European Romantic art songs, especially nineteenth-century German lieder. The existing Western literature about this genre emphasizes the connections between the Chinese art songs of the twentieth century and European Romantic songs and does not consider any relationship with the domestic Chinese tradition. Publications by Chinese scholars also do not examine in any detail specific connections to the Chinese tradition at the ideational level. As this paper demonstrates, the Chinese art songs that emerged during the May Fourth Movement were not created solely by following a Western model. Their uniqueness is the result of combining the search for “new culture” with the significant traces of domestic roots in the social role of music and the tradition of joining words and music in a single artistic whole. The paper first explores the emergence of the art song in the context of Chinese musical modernization, and then, through citing theoretical works and analyses of select compositions by three of the most famous art song composers – Xiao Youmei 萧友梅 (1884–1940), Zhao Yuanren 趙 元任 (1892–1982), and Huang Zi 黃自 (1904–38) – it demonstrates the various approaches to creating art songs, especially in terms of how they were related to the domestic tradition. I have chosen examples that allow us to observe the gradual adoption of an originally European genre in the Chinese cultural environment and various factors that influenced how this genre changed. I also examine the changing ways in which this foreign genre interacted with the domestic Chinese environment.
keywords: Chinese New Music; Chinese art song; tradition; Xiao Youmei; Zhao Yuanren; Huang Zi
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