Uyghur Music in Chinese History

Talk by Chuen-Fung Wong, Macalester College

The modern writing of Chinese music history from the mid-twentieth century on is marked by a keen awareness of musical multiculturalism that seeks to integrate the music of “minority” ethnicities into a national music history that is profoundly concerned at once with a chronological sense of linear continuity and the dearth of living musical sounds from the ancient past. Performing traditions from these outlying places and peoples thus entered Chinese history at a time when music began to be conceived primarily as sound formations rather than merely as symbolic systems for imperial rituals or as aesthetic tools for moral indoctrination. In this talk, I am concerned with how modern Chinese music historiography has relied on the assimilation of “minority” musical otherness in its own making. My examples come primarily from the music of the Uyghur and, often indiscriminately, the broader Central Asian or Chinese northwestern borderlands, both in the past and the present. I suggest that, by supplying audible musical sounds to a Chinese music history that would otherwise be largely silent and monolithic, Uyghur and other “minority” music traditions, as framed in the multiculturalist narrative, have assumed a major role in the modern formation of Chinese musical identity.

Chuen-Fung Wong is Associate Professor and Chair of Music at Macalester College, Minnesota, where he teaches courses in world music, ethnomusicology, and Chinese music. His publications on the music of the Uyghur in northwest China have addressed issues ranging from musical modernity and minority nationalism to cultural revival and musical exoticism. He also performs and directs ensembles of traditional chamber Chinese instrumental music in both Hong Kong and Minneapolis-St. Paul, and is editor and co-author of Listening to Chinese Music (2009) and The Chinese Soundscapes (2018). Wong completed his PhD degree in ethnomusicology at UCLA in 2006 under the tutelage of Prof. Helen Rees.

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Duration: 00:58:37

Published: Thursday, April 05, 2018