Chinese Music Transformation In The Globalized World Research Papers Examples
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Globalization is the most characteristic feature of modern economic, political and social tendencies of the world’s development. This process started after the World War II along with the foundation of the new global economic system. After the borders had become more open and the wealth of average citizen had grown, the process of globalization had spread on cultural relations. The process of cultural exchange and their common consumption intensified with the help of the Internet, popular culture media and international travel. The most significant items of national culture had been adopted into the other cultures becoming a part of them. Nonetheless, local traditional values, nationalism and nation-building are still the most powerful forces in modern world (Law, Ho, 2009).
Thus, music appeared on free foreign markets and was distributed to all who were ready to accept it for their own pleasure. The rise of rock 'n' roll and modern pop music in the USA in combination with the state’s leading role in the western civilization changed a paradigm of music industry dramatically. The genre became a ground of the new mass culture and soon it occupied all the regions of the world that accepted the western economic model and lifestyle. At the same time, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was building a market-oriented economy and desperately needed to set up new economic relations with the West and the government officially approved the open-door policy. Along with intensive trade rapprochement, a new cultural influence was let in.
Cooperation between the countries became the most essential aspect of countries’ development so they started the gradual incorporation of their economies into the global economy. There was also a strong demand for a globalization of music in China, considering its political and economic successes, which was transforming the country into a global superpower and the growing interest for China in the world. The vital necessity for the country was to lose all backward paradigms that meant to embrace western traditions and to implement its musical vision.
Chinese music is similar with the façade of China metro areas. Cities in China look like postindustrial metro areas of Western Europe or North America while people have adopted western casual and business fashion. This modern facade operatively coexists with the unique culture of Forbidden City, Mao’s mausoleum or the Great Wall and together with new western trends forges the new reality for China, which is oriented to future. A tourist from any part of the planet will encounter here with both exotic and familiar contemporary China.
Speaking of contemporary Chinese music, local composers incorporate both native and adopted musical elements. Agreeing to its two-faced form, Joseph Lam in his article “Music, Globalization, and the Chinese Self” states about the country itself that “China must continuously change to respond to historical and current demands imposed from within and without, and to engage with a myriad of native, foreign, and hybridized thoughts, acts, and objects. After being used in China for a substantial length of time, during which they have been adjusted by Chinese needs and aesthetics, the adopted elements transform themselves into something distinctively and intrinsically Chinese.” (Lam, 2007). According to that statement, the globalized Chinese music should fit all the contemporary international standards and on the other hand, represent China’s ancient history, its independence, still saving the connection with historical roots.
Before the period of globalization, Chinese music had been developing in isolation inside the Chinese civilization or even inside of a particular historical or linguistic region. Now in China there is full range of music is available. Besides, Chinese TV and radio, music producers and distributors accepted western concept of market oriented production of music. These actors track consumer needs and industry’s trends to follow them, satisfying consumers’ demands. Now specialized stores sell all kinds of music products on digital data carriers.
The popular music segment includes, for example, compositions of past centuries, as ones that is played on replicas of Bianzhong of Marquis Yi of Zeng - ancient Chinese musical instrument that was found in the Zeng-hou-yi Tomb in 1978. Chinese and Western contemporary composers began to create new compositions for the pipa - a four-stringed Chinese musical instrument. Among them there is Philip Glass, whose record "Orion" presents pipa among the sound of sitar, didgeridoo, kora and "trivial" violin. Lou Harrison, the contemporary classical music composer, wrote the "Concerto for Pipa with String Orchestra" in 1997. While there is a demand for the modern compositions, some of the pipa music that is poular nowadays had been written in the seventh century.
The guqin, or qin, a seven-string Chinese musical instrument, has a history of about five thousand years and yet, it is living and developing. There are the American, Canadian, German, Dutch and British significant players of the guqin, who had made a big contribution to that music.
Chinese instrumental music expanded the sounding of western composers, who presented it for their audience in return.Lyrical songs written in the poetic form of ci by Jiang Kui in the thirteenth century is still a remarkable example of popularity of traditional genre.
Such a wide use of traditional instruments and forms can indicate the fundamental role of native culture in their contemporary music, where it is often a sonic structure, which is similar to ancient compositions. Traditional instruments are combined with classical European genres of eighteenth and nineteenth century, while modern Chinese genres of have a huge influence of the western sounding of the second half of twentieth century.
The genre that presents vernacular Chinese music is Guoyue – literally “national music”. It is adapted for presentation in front of audience in philharmonic halls. It includes all Chinese forms of music as long as they are not European. However, it became popular through the masses and often is included in the sound of popular music by some performers. As Simon Frith stated, “musical creativity always involves cultural borrowing, and changes in musical tradition don’t mean the loss of cultural identity but articulate the way it changes with circumstances” (Frith, 2003).
However, there is not much freedom in music industry in China. Due to strict governmental control all performances have to be officially sanctioned. Moreover, most of live music performances are under official supervision. Commercial concerts of popular music and politically bold programs have just recently become common in China. The combination of state control and artistic freedom is another remarkable feature of Chinese music. It was the government, who initiated a policy of music reforms, and now there are such a hundred per cent western music as Chinese pop music, hip-hop, rap or heavy metal that have completely lost their Chinese sound. It became possible after the incorporation of Taiwan into the process of globalization and western influence in Hong Kong. After years of avoiding the pop music, it has made a dramatic conquest of China over the last two decades. Mainstream pop there is almost entirely a copy of western music. Chinese pop inherited its instrumental and lyrical form. In eighties, China got its own pop icon – Anita Mui from Hong Kong. However, almost all of significant stars of the genre are from Hong Kong: Charlene Choi (born in Canada), Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau or Eason Chan who are dominating in the industry.
The continental part of PRC is not well accommodated for tours and production of music. Although most of major western record labels are operating there, the issue of piracy makes the business problematic. Still, all top stars from the USA are as much famous as at home.
Rock music in China began to grow since the eighties, and after the events on the Tiananmen Square in 1989 it went underground until the early 2000s, when the Internet spread widely in the country. Since then rock has regained its positions in music industry. New and extreme genres of rock such as nu metal, black metal and thrash metal appeared and have been existing along with more traditional sound of Chinese rock legends: the Tang Dynasty, Lonely China Day et cetera.
Any band, especially foreign, that plays a concert above the club level will be subjected for checking by the Ministry of Culture and its censors. Every lyric on a CD issued for a local market and every song planned for a live performance must be approved to obtain the necessary permits. Any famous western hit can be banned for performing. In addition, not just songs are liable for censoring, but also artists themselves. Sonic Youth was left without opening band during the tour in China because of their support of Tibetan liberation movement. In 2013, Metallica could not play their major hit “Master of Puppets”. Censors found the song’s lyric dedicated to control of individual to be subversive.
However, due to globalization of music such rock bands as Linkin Park, Nine Inch Nails, Avril Lavigne and Sonic Youth are playing for stadium crowd of dozens of thousands people.
The newest genres in PRC are rap and hip-hop. After the period of being in the underground, the first Chinese hip-hop studio album was issued in 2003. Thus, China absorbed all trends of modern music and enriched its own culture with the most significant achievements of western music. Through the unusual, as for music, administrative measures, China had prevented the failure of its traditional sounding to the level of backward and forgotten art. The process of globalization, and westernization in particular served to give the second birth to native Chinese music. Also, China adopted the western genres, which have become the part of its culture. Thus, China made its way for cultural communication with the rest of the world and opened herself for it.
Contemporary music in China can be described as “played with mostly Chinese musical instruments, but featuring not only traditional melodies and rhythms but also newly developed Chinese and 20th-century harmonies and counterpoints, the tradition/genre is a hybridized and localized result of musical globalization” (Lam, 2007).
1. Joseph Lam. “Music, Globalization, and the Chinese Self”. The Macalester International Roundtable 2007. Paper 2.
2. Wing‐Wah Lawa, Wai‐Chung Hob. Globalization, values education, and school music education in China. Journal of Curriculum Studies: Volume 41, Issue 4, 2009.
3. For All the Rock in China. The New York Times.
4. Sin-yan Shen. Chinese Music in the 20th Century (Chinese Music Monograph Series). Chinese Music Society of North America Press. 2001.
5. Simon Frith. Taking Popular Music Seriously: Selected Essays. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 2007. Pp. 149 – 167.
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