Past meetings - some brief reports
A brief list of past CHIME meetings
1991 - Geneva. In co-operation with the European Seminar in Ethnomusicology (ESEM) and AIMP; 29 Sept. 1991. Theme: 'Chinese Music'. 35 participants.
1995 - Rotterdam. In co-operation with Teaching World Music (TWM), ESEM, Rotterdam Conservatory, Leiden University and Conference Centre De Doelen; Rotterdam, 11-14 September, 1995. Theme: 'East Asian Voices'. 91 participants.
1997 - Leiden. In co-operation with the Dutch Society for Ethnomusicology Arnold Bake and Research School CNWS, Leiden, 29-31 August 1997. Theme: 'East Asian Strings'. 44 participants.
1998 - Heidelberg. In co-operation with the Institute of Chinese Studies, Musicology and East Asian Art at the University of Heidelberg, 1-4 October 1998. Theme: 'Barbarian Pipes and Strings - 2,000 years of cross-cultural influences in the music of China.' 75 participants.
1999 - Prague. In co-operation with Charles University, the CCK Foundation for Scholarly Research, and the Academy of Music in Prague, 15-19 September 1999. Theme: 'Music in cities, music in villages; East-Asian music traditions in transition.' 77 participants.
2000 - Leiden. In co-operation with the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), and the Department of Cultural and Social Studies, Leiden University, 23-27 August, 2000. Theme: 'Performing Arts of Asia: Audiences, Patrons and Performers.' 165 participants.
2001 - Venice. In co-operation with Venice University, Fondatione Giorgio Cini, and SOAS, London University. Fondatione Giorgio Cini, Isola San Giorgio, Venice, 20-23 September 2001. Theme: 'Music and Meaning in China and East-Asia. Beauty - Power - Emotions.' ca. 80 participants.
2002 - Sheffield. In cooperation with the Department of Music, University of Sheffield, 26-29 July 2002. Theme: 'Sex, Love and Romance, Reflections on the Passions in East Asian Music.' ca. 70 participants.
2004 - Paris. In cooperation with University of Paris IV Sorbonne, and Seminaire d'Etudes Ethnomusicologiques de paris Sorbonne (CRLM), 1-4 July 2004. Theme: 'Orality and Improvisation in East Asian Music.' 90 participants.
2005 - Amsterdam. In cooperation with the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) and the KIT Tropentheatre, 6-9 Oct 2005, in conjunction with the Amsterdam China Festival. Theme: 'Exploring China's musical past: 'reconstruction' and 'reinvention.' 100 participants
2006 - Yulin, China. In cooperation with the Music Research Institute, Beijing the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and the Yulin Cultural Bureau, 16 - 29 July 2006. Theme: 'Joining Forces: Musical Fieldwork in China.' 50 participants.
2007 - Dublin, Ireland. In cooperation with the School of Music, University College Dublin, 11-14 October 2007. Theme: 'I sing who I am'. Identity, ethnicity and individuality in Chinese music. ca. 70 participants.
2008 - Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA. In cooperation with Bard College, 16-19 October 2008. Theme: 'Music and Ritual in China and East Asia.' ca. 50 participants.
2009 - Brussels, Belgium. In cooperation with the Musical Instruments Museum (MIM), 18-22 November 2009, in conjunction with the Europalia Festival. Theme: 'Chinese and East Asian Music: The Future of the Past.' ca. 100 participants.
'Music in cities, music in villages'
In the study of Chinese and East-Asian music, urban genres are more widely promoted and more thoroughly studied than their rural counterparts. The fifth annual CHIME conference, which took place from 15 to 19 September 1999 at the Academy of Music in Prague, focused on musical contrasts between villages and cities in China and East Asia. The eighty-odd participants who attended this meeting did not only come from obvious backgrounds like musicology, sinology and anthropology, but also included some art historians, archeologists and journalists. Speakers examined a wide range of genres, from Buddhist ritual to forms of Asian local opera, story-telling, folk songs and pop. There were concerts of Chinese story-singing (nanguan), contemporary symphonic music (with the Moravian Philharmonic), a Buddhist ritual ceremony (with the Beijing Buddhists) and several small recitals of string and wind music from China, Korea and Mongolia.
Judging from the many paper presentations in Prague, it is in the very interaction between urban and rural society that Asia's musical culture is - and has always been - at its most vibrant. A major concern is that rural genres continuously receive too little attention from scholars. One reason is that travelling and research in Asian rural areas can be a rather demanding experience. Another reason is that, for a long time, the existence of numerous rural music traditions has simply escaped the attention of most (Western) scholars. Many kinds of music genres in China (notably ritual music) were revived only in recent years. They have hardly been described or explored so far. In this respect, every new CHIME meeting has led to surprises and new discoveries, and Prague was no exception to this.
Clearly, the lines between 'rural' and 'urban' cannot and should not be drawn too sharply. Many new hybrid forms of music began life in cities, from Peking Opera to pop and symphonic music, but the ongoing urbanization of rural areas in Asia is anything but a one-way process. As itr was illustrated in various papers as well as in the concerts, there is a continuous interplay between rural and urban music traditions. Pop musicians borrow elements from Buddhist chants or folk music for their commercial songs, but these songs often find their way back to the countryside, where they are immediately 'recycled' in folk music repertoires, a point raised amongst others by Adam Yuet Chau in his paper on folk music in Shaanbei. The interaction is rich and complex and cannot be captured in simple models, as was also clearly illustrated in contributions by Daniel Ferguson (Cantonese opera ), Tan-Hwee San and Tian Qing (Buddhist music), Mercedes Dujunco (Vietnamese opera), and Nathan Hesselink (Korean percussion music).
In Asia, music travels ever more easily thanks to an increased social mobility and because of new modes of communication. The greater mobility does not depend on economic factors alone, but also on such aspects as natural disasters (floods, droughts, famines), which drive thousands of people away from their native areas. The ebb and flow of musical cross-fertilization in Third World regions may well be partly related to the fluctuating water levels of the big rivers. This is certainly true for China. Pre-conceived ideas about contrasts between urban literacy/education and rural illiteracy were put to question by Kathy Lowry, Frank Kouwenhoven and other presenters. Czech and Polish scholars offered various interesting contributions. Hopefully, contacts with Central-European scholarship can be extended in future CHIME meetings.
The hosting organization, the CCK International Sinological Center at Charles University, had arranged a number of fine and hart-warming concerts and recitals to bolster up participants' spirits. The Moravian Philharmonic, led by Wang Jin, played some ravishing pieces of new music from China, including a surprising orchestration of Tan Dun's Ghost Opera (originally written for the Kronos Quartet and pipa player Wu Man), Qu Xiaosong's Huan, for piano and orchestra, and Chen Qigang's Extase, for oboe and orchestra. With no less than three splendid soloists, this was a concert to remember. There were also fine performances by the Beijing Buddhists, the ensemble Han Tang Yuefu (Taiwan) and a number of solo players from Mongolia, Korea, Japan and China. Dr. Lucie Olivová and her colleagues in Prague must be congratulated for their wonderful work in making this meeting possible.
Report on 4th Chime Meeting, Heidelberg (1998):
'Cross-cultural influences in Chinese music'
The ancient university town of Heidelberg was the location of 'Barbarian Pipes and Strings', the fourth Chime meeting, in October 1998. A favourite spot of great German thinkers, it seemed an apt setting for a meeting engaging a rather weighty subject: 2,000 years of cross-cultural influences in the music of China. Papers covered a broad range of topics, from China's ancient fascination with music cosmology (shared by the Babylonians in the Middle East) to the Western impact on Chinese music in the twentieth century: school songs, popular record sleeve designs, Hollywood films, Viennese serialism. Not a single element of foreign influence seemed to have been overlooked, and there was also room for papers on the reverse process, China's impact on Western music. With over seventy participants, an art exhibition and five concerts, this was one of the finest Chime meetings in recent years.
Thanks to Barbara Mittler and Frank Kouwenhoven's dedicated efforts and impeccable organisational skills, the participants in the Chime conference were able to listen to and discuss some forty papers, attend concerts and performances and witness the opening of an exhibition of paintings while enjoying a very pleasant stay in Heidelberg. Despite having been established rather recently, Chime meetings play an important role as platforms for scholarly exchange and for bringing together Western and Chinese scholars in the field of Chinese music. They also give young scholars and lovers of Chinese music a chance to meet more seasoned academics in a collaborative, creative environment. In this context, and also given the great variety in intellectual backgrounds and hermeneutic tools employed by the participants, some differences in scientific depth between contributions may be unavoidable. Here follows a brief discussion of some of the papers presented at the conference. A complete list is appended at the end of this report.
Most participants concerned themselves with the musics of modern and contemporary China, both Han and 'Barbarian'. Rachel Harris looked at the important issue of the ownership of music in the context of folk songs and the musics of China's ethnic minorities. She described the life and work of the composer and song collector Wang Luobing, and the reactions of minority people to his exoticised versions of songs from Xinjiang and the Northwest. Mercedes Dujunco's interesting paper also touched upon issues of ethnicity and identity with reference to the music of Hakka people in Guangdong. She examined the processes through which Hakka people try to negotiate with the Han community through their music. Tan Hwee-San presented some of her ethnographic findings in the Buddhist communities of the Quanzhou area of Fujian, one of the most interesting and religiously active areas in today's China, and an area which is a constant source of fascination for sinologists and musicologists alike. Isabelle Henrion presented part of her pioneering work on Tibetan traditional opera (Lhamo). Having spent almost two years in Lhasa, she has developed an understanding of important aspects of this style of performance which have never previously been studied, such as vocal techniques, and the way in which singers constantly re-create and re-arrange their material. Mr Zhu Yongzhong from Xining brought along very interesting footage of some Tibetan and Mangghuer festivals in Qinghai Province, and also tried his best to satisfy the vast curiosity of those on the floor. Alexander Knapp surveyed the state of research on the music of the mysterious 'Jews' of the Kaifeng area, and their possible contacts with Chinese religion and Islam. To turn to more traditional Han domains, a number of contributions showed just how much the pipa and guqin are 'in transition'. The papers in this section examined a broad spectrum of arguments spanning from transcription to recordings, and from organology to modern compositions for the pipa.
The sessions and discussions on modern and contemporary China and on Chinese composers were interesting and stimulating, also thanks to the presence of the Macao-born composer Lam Bunching, who talked about her inspirational motivation and her composition techniques. Nancy Yunhwa Rao's brilliant analysis of Poeme Lyrique II by Chen Qigang examined the ways in which Chen integrates dramatic and musical elements from Beijing Opera with atonal musical idioms. Other contributions by Luciana Galliano on the relationship between creativity and subjectivity in the work of contemporary East Asian composers, and by Christian Utz on the eclecticism of Tan Dun's pieces, amongst others, generated a debate around issues of Chineseness and musical composition. Professor Liu Ching-chih and Professor Hsu Tsang-houei's interesting surveys on social and musical changes in mainland China and Taiwan were maybe too wide in scope for the short time allotted to each presentation, but provided important frameworks for the ongoing discussions. Incidentally, the entrance of Chinese imagery into the world of Western composers was examined in the session 'China seen through Barbarian eyes'. Andreas Steen's delightful presentation on the Shanghai recording industry and advertising in the 1920s and 1930s opened a window onto an almost forgotten material culture, shedding some light on the formation of consumer taste in that crucial period of Chinese history. Finally, through the analysis of yangbanxi video materials, Barbara Mittler explained the functioning of the model operas and how their political meanings were carried at various levels of performance, not only textual but also musical and performative.
A few papers looked at the music of a more distant past. Professor Bäcker examined the connections between music and cosmology in ancient China and the Near East, and showed how Confucians and Babylonians were both obsessed with music and numbers. Ulrike Middendorf and Stefanie Ahlborn dug out new materials on early dance and on Chinese Opera from conventionally historical materials such as Dynastic Histories, legal codes and edicts. Finally, Dr Francois Picard gave an account (in Chinese!) on the finding of eight books of notations of Christian hymns sung in eighteenth century Beijing. His desire to 'restitute' this music for modern audiences has led to the creation of a new CD. (Messe des Jesuites de Pekin. Joseph-Marie Amiot. Auvidis Astree E 8642, published 1998. This album, and various CDs of Chinese Buddhist music recorded by François Picard, will be reviewed in Chime 14/15.)
There were hints of a desire to stir up controversy during the final panel on 'Chinese Music and Nationalism on the Brink of the 21st Century'. Most of the discussion was informed by Professor Rudolf Wagner's introduction of the notion of 'catch-up culture' with reference to China, to describe a culture whose strategic decisional centre is not within itself but somewhere else. Professor Wagner lamented that most scholars are at a loss when trying to analyse in positive terms a series of cultural practices which characterise the fields of literature, music, painting and other liberal arts in China. A 'catch-up culture', he argued, is essentially discontinuous and not homogenous by nature, so it is difficult for scholars to identify the origins and the nature of artistic and intellectual trends in modern and contemporary China. Some participants had difficulties in accepting the notion, and they objected on various grounds, such as that it is only descriptive of urban elites, and that Chinese people have a strong sense of their own cultural identity, which outside metropolitan areas is strongly rooted in the locale. Although it went unnamed, the discussion focused upon the apparent split present in many postcolonial societies between the concept of a modern nation and that of its traditional culture. As Partha Chatterjee's studies on nationalism have shown, the concept of the nation is predicated as a universal category, but most post-colonial societies are constituted on a notion of the particularity which makes them different from all other nations: a primordial spiritual and cultural essence which is the nation's tradition. It seems to me that the way in which Chinese artists, in China and abroad, articulate and negotiate this dialectical exchange is the most intriguing issue here. Another issue which arose during discussions was the 'myth of continuity', which often plagues Chinese and Western approaches to Chinese civilisation. Finally, the idea of Chineseness as a trademark of Chinese composers living abroad was raised, and the example of Tan Dun's 'writing different pieces for different governments' was mentioned. This might be slightly unfair, but I was nonetheless reminded of Eric Satie's comment after he heard that Maurice Ravel had refused the Legion d'honneur: 'He might refuse it, but all his work accepts it'.
Stefanie Ahlborn - 'How dangerous is Chinese Opera? The discourse under the Qianlong Emperor.'
Chen Shizheng - [Interviewed by F.Kouwenhoven on his experiences as a theatre director, actor and singer].
Cheng Gongliang - 'The process of transcribing guqin scores.'
Cheng Yu - 'Images of the Pipa - Assimilation, Sinicization and Modernization of a Once Foreign Lute.
Dai Xiaolian - 'A Study of Meihua San Nong ('Plum Blossom, Three Variations')'.
Magdalene v. Dewall - 'The Sheng and its Origins.'
Paul Dice, with Gao Hong - 'Master Lin Shicheng and the Pudong School.'
Mercedes M.Dujunco - 'From Outsider to Insider: Chinese Identity in Guangdong Hakka Music.'
Luciana Galliano - 'Contemporary Composition in East Asia.'
Martin Gieselmann - 'Experimental Theatre in Taiwan.'
Rachel Harris - 'Wang Luobin: Folksong King of the Northwest, or Song Thief ?'
Isabelle Henrion - (1) 'Traditional Tibetan Opera (Lhamo) and its Current Forms under the PRC's Regime';
Isabelle Henrion - (2) Video presentation: Lhamo: selected highlights of traditional Tibetan Opera.
Hsiao-Yun Kung - 'The Music of Composer Jiang Wenye.'
Hsu Tsang-houei - 'Composing Tradition.'
Julian Joseph - 'Yi Qiao - The Reconstruction of an Ancient Qin Melody.'
Alan Kagan - 'Aural Imagery of Suona in Ritual Theatre.'
Alexander Knapp - 'The State of Research into Jewish Music in China in the 1990s.'
Frank Kouwenhoven - 'New Music of Great Antiquity - Five Decades of Qin Playing on Records.'
Eric Lai - 'Taming the Lute: the Pipa as Icon of Cultural Synthesis in New Chinese Music.'
Lam Bunching, with Gao Hong - 'From 'Run' to 'Sudden Thunder': transformations of a pipa composition.'
Liu Ching-chih - 'Copying, Imitating and Transplanting - The Development of New Music in China.'
Ulrike Middendorf - 'Dancing to Another Tune: or Why Cai Yong Refused to "Make his Retribution".'
Barbara Mittler - 'To be or not to be - Making and Unmaking the Yangbanxi (Model Works).'
François Picard - 'Catholic Spiritual Songs in Chinese from 18th Century Beijing.'
Nancy Rao - 'An Analysis of Poéme Lyrique II. Aspects of Language and influences of Beijing Opera.'
Hermann-Josef Röllicke - 'The original Chinese poems in 'Der Abschied', in Mahler's Lied von der Erde.'
Andreas Steen - 'Changing Visions: Music on Record Sleeves in the Republican Era, 1911-1914.'
Joachim Steinheuer - 'Pagodas in European Compositions.'
Tan Hwee-San - 'Caigu, Buddhist ritual specialists in the Minnan area (Fujian).'
Christian Utz - 'From Fake to Recreation - Tan Dun's Approach to Music Theatre.'
Miriam von Wrochem - 'Chinese Composers at Home and Abroad. Guo Wenjing versus Chen Xiaoyong.'
Zhu Yongzhong - Four video presentations: (1) Minhe Mangghuer Nadun, Village Festival Traditions of the Mangghuer in the Minhe Region in eastern Qinghai. (2) Amdo Tibetan Winter Bon Ritual. (3) Qinghai hua'er, Love dialogue songs in Qinghai Province. (4) Amdo Tibetan Water-Deity Entertainment Ritual.
'Barbarian or Indigenous Pipes and Strings ?' Alexander Knapp chaired a round table discussion about Chinese Music and Nationalism on the Brink of the 21st Century. With Frank Kouwenhoven, Barbara Mittler, Lam Bun-Ching, Qu Xiaosong, Hsu Tsang-Houei and Rudolf Wagner.
Cheng Gongliang, guqin
Chen Shizheng, voice
Cheng Yu, pipa
Dai Xiaolian, guqin
Gao Hong, pipa
Inok Paek, kayagum
Reimund Korupp, cello
Brigitte Geller, soprano
Werner Volker Meyer, baritone
Heidelberg String Quartet
'Plus Percussion' Ensemble
Heidelberg Philharmonic / Thomas Kalb
Report on 3rd CHIME meeting, Leiden (1997):
'East Asian Strings'
Some forty-five scholars and students participated in the CHIME meeting 'East Asian Strings', 29 to 31 August 1997 in Leiden, the Netherlands. They performed or discussed music for pipa, guqin, zheng, erhu and a number of less familiar Asian instruments such as the Japanese sanshin, the Uyghur lute rawap and stick-fiddle gijäk, and the Khakassian box zither chatkhan. The programme featured fourteen papers and twelve musical performances. The recitals contributed to the lively and homely atmosphere of the meeting. There was room for some in-depth analyses of string music repertoires and a bout of on-the-spot re-interpretation of ancient scores. Historical links between traditional string music in China and in Japan constituted a recurring theme.
'East Asian Strings' had a brisk musical start on the afternoon of Friday, 29 August, when Chinese composer Qu Xiaosong (New York) and Japanese singer and biwa performer Junko Ueda (Amsterdam) joined forces in an impromptu performance for vocals and percussion. No 'strings' (other than human vocal cords) were involved, but the idea was to create a small ritual to inaugurate the new CHIME library, in a renovated 16th century house in the historical heart of Leiden, five minutes' walking distance from the Leiden University Library. With most of the doors in the building ajar, the sounds of voices, drums and cymbals travelled freely through the rooms, while musicians and spectators gathered in the hall downstairs. Live music remained an important element during the entire meeting, which lasted three days. A lecture room in the Gravensteen, the former town castle now housing the Faculty of Law, served as the site for most papers and demonstrations. An evening concert of string music from Persia to Japan was held on Saturday, 30 August, in the nearby Lokhorst Church.
Han Mei: 'Love Songs of the Dong people - a fieldwork report on Ga pipa.'
Marnix Wells:'Up-date on research on the Dunhuang pipa scores, specifically West River Moon.'
Lucie Borotova: 'The history and present status of the zheng (bridged zither) in Chinese music.'
Han Mei: 'The four traditional schools of zheng music in China.'
Mercedes Dujunco: 'The Generation of New Modal Entities in Chaozhou Xianshi String Ensemble Music.'
Kyle Heide: 'Aesthetics and Performance Style in the Strings of Nanguan.'
John Thompson: 'Report on Transcriptions from the Ming Dynasty Guqin Handbook Zheyin Shizi Qinpu.'
Julian Joseph: 'A Novel Approach to Learning the Guqin.'
Liesbet Nijssen: 'An Introduction to the Khakasian box zither chatkhan.'
Garrie v. Pinxteren: 'Chinese theatre going Dutch - Asian influences in G. Janssen's contemporary opera Hier.'
Cheng Yu: 'Music Styles and Diversity in Xi'an Guyue: summer fieldwork, 1996.'
Robin Thompson: 'Chinese influences on the formation of the Ryukyuan Classical Music Tradition (Japan).'
Frank Kouwenhoven: 'No strings attached? - love songs & temple festivals in Northwest China.'
Antoinet Schimmelpenninck: 'The annual festival of the Gods in Xincheng, Gansu Province.'
Qu Xiaosong, percussion & Junko Ueda, voice
Kamil Abbas: gijak (spike-fiddle) and rawap (lute)
Cheng Yu: pipa (pear-shaped lute)
Fang Weiling, erhu (spike-fiddle)
Junko Ueda: voice & biwa (Japanese lute)
Dorothee Schaab-Hanke, guqin
Hanno Lecher, guqin
Dai Xiaolian, guqin (seven-stringed zither)
John Thompson, guqin
Cheng Yu, guqin
Liesbet Nijssen, chatkhan
Robin Thompson: sanshin (3-stringed lute)