Resonant China: Transnational Music-making and the Construction of the Public, 1934-1958
Asian Languages, Literatures, and Cultures
This dissertation examines the history of Sino-Western musical encounters from the second to the third quarter of the twentieth century, arguing for the construction of a music public – a tangible and transnational assemblage of individuals, audiences, institutions, and musical works that politicized Western art music as an aesthetic discourse in China. Through the Chinese sociality, comprised of mechanisms such as quanzi (circle) and guanxi (relation/connection/tie), this dissertation takes departure from the orthodox music historiography based on (de)coloniality and Sino-Western binary; instead, it highlights multi-directional transmission of knowledge and therefore multi-lateral power relations. This project is comprised of four chapters focusing on the overlapping circles of four musicians--the Russian composer Alexander Tcherepnin (1899-1977), the Italian conductor and pianist Mario Paci (1878-1946), the Chinese cellist and pianist Ma Siju (1920-2014), and the Chinese pianist Fou Ts'ong (1934-2020). This project shows how despite dynamic political changes shaping Chinese society from 1934 to 1958, the music public remained a relatively stable entity that subtly but effectively transformed music-making into an enduring soft power. This historiography uncovers the flirtatious guanxi between the music public and the core of political power, which redefines the essence of politicization of aesthetics in China.