The first nationwide music theory conference in China happened in the post-Mao period, at a time when Deng Xiaoping’s “reform and opening up” policy started to trigger new attempts on different fronts. From 1979 to 1989 four nationwide music theory conferences were held in China. The first two conferences were organized in 1979 and 1986, with harmony set up as the conference theme. While the First Conference focused on what they called the nationalization of harmony, the Second Conference shifted to focus on the modernization of harmony, having reportedly “made its way out from the narrow space of functional harmony”. (Fan Zuyin 2003) Novel harmonic possibilities explored by Western composers in the twentieth century had little place at the First Conference, as “the theoretical research, teaching, and compositional use of harmony remained tied down to restrictively the system of functional theory.” (Li Huanzhi 1997). Functional harmony has come to enjoy near monopoly in China since the publication of the Soviet harmony textbook Uchebnik garmonii in Chinese in 1957. This paper will critically compare the harmonic approaches advocated by Li Yinghai and Sang Tong, paradigmatic and polemically opposed figures in the swerve from tertian to pentatonic harmonies, with specific reference to their contribution to the First Conference as documented in the proceedings. The juxtaposition of their approaches unravels how the noble cause to nationalize harmony had led to the creation of perplexing hybrids, which effectively challenge us to rethink style and idea that have for long been taken for granted.
13.H.1Sessione - Semiotics and Semantics of Tonality and Harmony
CHEONG, Wai-Ling is Professor and Chair at the Music Department, The Chinese University of Hong Kong. She received the PhD from Cambridge University, where she studied with Derrick Puffett. Her research interests include Soviet and Central European music theory in China, the music of Scriabin and Stravinsky, octatonicism, and the music and theoretical writings of Olivier Messiaen. Her scholarly works have been published by Acta Musicologica, Journal of the Royal Musical Association, Music Analysis, Music and Letters, Perspectives of New Music, etc. Recent articles include ‘“Miroir Fluide”: Messiaen, Debussy and Cyrano’s “Synaesthetic” Bird’ published by Music and Letters in 2014, and “Reading Schoenberg, Hindemith, and Kurth in Sang Tong: Modernist Harmonic Approaches in China” published by Acta Musicologica in 2016.
Chinese University of Hong Kong Hong Kongcheongwl@cuhk.edu.hk