Rice University

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Thesis Defense

Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Shepherd School of Music

Speaker: Jessica Quah
Masters Candidate

Classical Music Serving the People’s Republic: Political and National Ideology in the Butterfly Lovers and Yellow River Concerti

Monday, April 10, 2017
3:00 PM  to 5:00 PM

2233  Alice Pratt Brown Hall


This study examines the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto (1959) and the Yellow River Piano Concerto (1969) in the context of musical culture and political ideologies in the early People’s Republic of China. Significant differences in the musical content of these concerti correspond to the evolution of the early PRC government’s ideal national image as defined in relation to both Western capitalism and the feudal China of the past. These pieces reflect Maoist-government-sanctioned political stances contemporaneous to these compositions through their handling of programmaticism, Western classical music idiom, and features common to traditional Chinese music. Situating these concerti in relation to historical and political developments, this investigation demonstrates that Butterfly Lovers and Yellow River occupy disparate positions in the realm of Chinese-composed Western concert music, and encourages a culturally sensitive approach to how these works are programmed, performed, and interpreted.

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