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Composing, Revising, and Performing Suzhou Ballads: a Study of Political Control and Artistic Freedom in Tanci, 1949-1964

Webster-Cheng, Stephanie (2009) Composing, Revising, and Performing Suzhou Ballads: a Study of Political Control and Artistic Freedom in Tanci, 1949-1964. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation explores the dynamics of political control of the arts and artistic freedom in the musical storytelling art of Suzhou tanci between 1949 and 1964, years marked by extensive revision of traditional performance repertoire, widespread creation of new, contemporary-themed stories, and composition of boldly innovative ballad music. I examine four stories and ballads either composed or revised during this time, looking broadly at the role of the State in the creative process. I consider the role of high-ranking officials whose personal comments to artists shaped their creative processes, and the role of societal political pressure placed on artists through political movements and shifting trends in the dramatic arts. I study the artists' responses to these political forces as expressed in their newly composed and revised works. I examine decisions made during the creation of story and ballad texts, and analyze bold innovations taken by three artists during the composition of ballad music. I suggest that the musical innovations be viewed both as responses to the coercive political atmosphere of the 1950s and 1960s and as significant expressions of artistic freedom within this politicized atmosphere. This dissertation begins with an overview of the main research questions, theoretical framework, research methodology, and literature. This is followed in Chapter 2 by an introduction to the art form, and an exploration of the 1950s-1960s period in Chinese history in Chapter 3. In Chapter 4, I examine the revision of the traditional story Jade Dragonfly, and the composition of new music in the story's climactic ballad Fighting for the Son. In Chapter 5, I study the creation of the new story We Certainly Must Fix the Huai River, and the composition of new music in the pivotal ballad Staying for the New Year. In Chapter 6, I explore the musical innovations made during the creation of two new ballads New Mulan Song and Butterfly Loves the Flower. Chapter 7 summarizes Chapters 4, 5, and 6, offers concluding thoughts regarding the nature of political control and artistic freedom in the Chinese arts during the 1949-1964 period, and suggests broader implications for the field of ethnomusicology.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairYung, Bellbyun@pitt.eduBYUN
Committee MemberEuba, Akinaeuba@pitt.eduAEUBA
Committee MemberWeintraub, Andrewanwein@pitt.eduANWEIN
Committee MemberBender,
Committee MemberTang, Wenfangtang@pitt.eduTANG
Committee MemberLiu, Xinminxinmin@pitt.eduXINMIN
Date: 29 January 2009
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 31 October 2008
Approval Date: 29 January 2009
Submission Date: 2 December 2008
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Music
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: artistic agency; Chinese arts; hegemony; politics and art; Suzhou storytelling
Other ID:, etd-12022008-193442
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 20:07
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:52


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