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CHIME Newsletter No. 18 

May 2015

News compiled by Frank Kouwenhoven, Liu Hongchi, Zhang Mingming and Bi Yifei

Storysinging / storytelling in China – special volume planned 

The deadline for submitting papers for the planned volume of the CHIME journal on Chinese storytelling and storysinging is 1 October 2015. The volume will be based primarily on papers presented during last year's CHIME workshop in Venice. However, scholars who did not make it to that event, but who are interested to contribute, are encouraged to contact us and to submit a paper for the publication. Articles should not exceed 8,000 words in length. Further editorial guidelines will be available soon on the Chime website. You can send contributions to (or get in touch for more information with) the Editor of CHIME, Frank Kouwenhoven, at

CHIME conference volume on 'Soundscapes in China' in the making

The overwhelming response to last year's CHIME conference on 'Sound, Noise and the Everyday – Soundscapes in Contemporary China', in Aarhus, Denmark, has led the organizers to prepare a  publication of a selection of papers presented during this meeting. Andreas Steen and Frank Kouwenhoven will act as the book's editors. Participants have been approached to submit their articles by the 1st of June, 2015. We have already received a number of papers, and are in touch with several publishing houses to examine possibilities for realizing this volume in print. 

Chinese-Western cross-culture and theatre at the Holland Festival, June 2015

A new opera by Chinese composer Guo Wenjing, Si Fan, will be premiered during the upcoming Holland Festival in Amsterdam in the Netherlands, in June 2015. The performance will be a cooperation between Sichuan opera singer Shen Tiemei, members of the Sichuan opera institute in Chengdu, the Dutch Nieuw Ensemble (for contemporary music) and film maker Frank Scheffer. Scheffer has made a documentary about Guo Wenjing which will serve as an introduction to the performance, but also (once the music starts) as a filmic backdrop and poetic commentary to the stage drama. Guo Wenjing took a traditional Chinese opera story as his point of departure and has combined Sichuan opera music with Western instruments and contemporary compositional techniques. The story of Si Fan is about a nun who longs to escape the narrow confines of the monastery in which she lives; she plans an escape, hoping to find love and fulfilment in the outside world.

This joint opera/film-project, given the umbrella title The inner landscape, is mirrored in a second cooperative project which will also be presented (albeit on different dates) at the Holland Festival: As big as the sky, a theatre work by Dutch composer Arnoud Noordgraaf features a stage design and film projections by Chinese conceptual artist Ai Weiwei. The performance will explore contrasts between East and West, and between modern and ancient life in China. It will be performed by the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble, in combination with Chinese and Western voices. As big as the sky, sung in English and in Chinese, is presented with Dutch surtitles, on 11, 12 and 14 June at the Muziekgebouw aan het IJ. The inner landscape , sung in Chinese, with Dutch surtitles, is scheduled for 16 June, in the same venue. For tickets or for more information, see

The Sacred in Popular Music,
30 July, Chichester/Lancashire UK

The University of Central Lancashire, the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance and the University of Chichester are pleased to invite submissions of proposals for the symposium The Sacred in Popular Music (or, in more elaborate from: Sacred Songs: Religion, Spirituality and the Divine in Popular Music Culture) that will take place at The Institute of Contemporary Music Performance in the UK on Thursday 30th July 2015. The conference committee invites all academics and university professionals, composers, musicologists and practitioners with a special interest in the relationship between the sacred and popular music to submit proposals related specifically to this issue. The organizers are especially interested in the variety of approaches to the subject, which these may include, but not restricted by: the role of religion in lives of artists within the popular music genre; the incorporation of popular music in sacred ceremonies; religious metaphor in popular music; incorporation of religion within popular music practice; fandom as a form of worship; divinity and rock stardom (rock stars’ homes as sites of pilgrimage, etc); pop memorabilia as holy relics.

Presentations may consist of individual papers (20 minutes) and lecture-recitals (40 minutes). Those interested are encouraged to send proposals up to 500 words (excluding musical examples) via email to Georgina Gregory or Mike Dines at and The deadline for receipt of proposals is June 1st 2015. The committee’s decision will be announced by the beginning of July at the latest. Please add to your abstract one page of biography, your full name and contact details (email address, telephone number, postal address), institutional affiliation (if any), and audio/visual requirements.

Three-day course on Japanese music,
Kyoto, 18-20 Aug, 2015

From 18 to 20 August, 2015, The Kyoto City University of Arts Research Centre for Japanese Traditional Music organizes a three-day course which will introduce many of the genres of traditional Japanese music that have been transmitted to the present and are still actively performed. The course will also discuss the varied ways of experiencing musical modernity in the context of the overwhelming dominance of western music in Japan. It will provide an accessible overview of Japanese music culture for non-Japanese participants, including performers, composers and musicologists. It is also intended for Japanese participants who are interested in an international perspective on Japanese music, and students planning to study abroad who want to know something about their ‘own’ music as well as western music.

The major genres include gagaku, shōmyō, and shakuhachi and koto music. The narrative genres of heike and jōruri and their place in the nō, bunraku and kabuki theatres will be introduced. Practical encounter with some genres during learning sessions, and an evening concert will be included. The costs for participation are 5,000 yen, payable in cash at the commencement of the course). The convenor of the course is Professor Alison Tokita (email: For further information, check 

Comparison of Chinese & Japanese music,
11th study meeting, 7-10 Sept 2015

The International Society on Comparative Study of Chinese and Japanese music (Zhong Ri Yinyue Bijiao Yanjiu Hui) will hold its 11th annual meeting from 7 to 10 September 2015 at the Xinjiang Institute of the Arts in Urumqi. The conference will focus on topics like Chinese and Japanese traditional music, music education and modern musical history, the culture of the Silk Road, including exchange between the Orient and Central Asian and Western culture, regional muqam traditions, etc.

The deadline for submitting abstracts has passed. Participants are currently submitting their full papers (required in both Chinese and Japanese versions) for a second review (until 15 May), after which a final selection of papers will be made. Speakers still interested in joining can contact the organizers via email:

For more info, check:

East Asian Theatres,
Conference in Krakow, Poland, 20-22 October 2015

The Polish Institute of World Art Studies in Warsaw and the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology in Krakow, will jointly organize the international conference East Asian Theatres: Traditions - Inspirations - European / Polish Contexts, to be hosted at the Museum from 20 to 22 October, 2015.

The conference is associated with the celebrations of the 250th anniversary of the national theatre in Poland, as well as the opening of a new permanent exhibition of the Manggha Museum of Japanese Art and Technology, Europe - Far East Gallery, which will exhibit the art of China, Korea and the Asian continent. The conference will be accompanied also by a temporary exhibition on East Asian theatres.

This will be the sixth conference organized by the Polish World Art Institute (and its predecessor, the Polish Society of Oriental Art) dedicated to East Asia. At the same time, it will be the first one to focus on theatre, although Asian theatre themes have appeared already in the programmes of previous conferences (see the archive at The organizers warmly welcome East Asian theatre researchers to participate in this event. Abstracts in English (max. 250 words) are welcome until 30 June and should be sent to or submitted via, where you can also find more information about registration and the topics of the conference.

IMS East Asia meeting on new trends in Musicology,
4-6 December 2015, HK 

Musical and musicological trends are ever changing with evolving sociological, economic, and political climates; at the same time, trends can also be geographic-specific. The East Asian Regional Association of the International Musicological Society (IMS-EA) 2015 will hold a conference in Hong Kong from 4-6 December 2015 which deals with this topic, under the title The Enterprise of Musicology: Trends in our New Age. IMS East Asia 2015 will set out to examine current trends of musicological thoughts, and in particular, 'Asian trends' – if such a phenomenon could be discerned. Asian countries are some of the fastest growing in the world: in technology, in science, in cultural development, and in educational innovation. Are such elements influential factors in musicological trends in Asia and world-wide? The deadline for submitting paper proposals has passed (10 April). For more on the conference, check

Book on music, trance and altered states in China

Scholars at the Research Institute of Ritual Music of the Shanghai Conservatory have compiled 中国民间信仰仪式中的音乐与迷幻  (Zhongguo minjian xinyang yishi zhong de yinyue yu mihuan) ‘Music and trance in Chinese folk religious ceremonies’, a substantial anthology (418 pp) of research papers on trance and altered states of consciousness in musical and ritual ceremonial contexts.

The authors, Mei Xiao, Hang Sun and Wei Yukun, conducted a three-year research programme which led to this book, which features music notations, photographs, tables, annotation and an elaborate bibliography and index. Published by the Culture and Art Publishing House in Beijing in 2014, this is the first monograph on this topic to appear in China, and in many ways a landmark publication and a model of excellent research,

The book's first part addresses theoretical issues, and includes a comparative study of shamanic music traditions, as well as a biographical review of previous articles in Chinese on trance, possession and healing in connection with Chinese music and folk customs.

The second part consists of case studies among different ethnic groups such as the Yi, Zhuang, Yao, and Miao. The authors stress the complexity of relationships between trance and music, as reflected in the wider social and historical frameworks of many phenomena of trance and altered states, and in the many intricate links with such fields as acoustics and behavioural psychology.

ISBN 978-7-5039-5856-4.

Teahouses in Chengdu (Sichuan) with traditional music events

In forthcoming editions of our newsletter we like to bring to your attention interesting venues in China which offer traditional music. For a start, we would like to recommend two teahouses in Chengdu which are not to be missed by anyone interested in either traditional string instruments or local Sichuan opera.

The Yayun Xuetang, besides serving as a teahouse, is also a kind of privately run cultural heritage centre for the Sichuanese yangqin (dulcimer). Every Thursday afternoon it hosts performances by locally prominent musicians of Sichuanese yangqin, jinqianban, qingyin, zhuqin, and similar traditions. There is no entrance fee, you only pay 10 RMB for a pot of tea in a congenial and lively environment.


Dongshuncheng south road 51, Jinjiang, Chengdu.


The Yuelai Chaguan is yet another teahouse of musical interest, based in the Jinjiang Theatre in Chengdu. Every Friday afternoon it features performances of Sichuan Opera by traditional style actors and actresses of the Sichuan Opera Troupe. Again, no entrance fee, just pay 30 RMB for your pot of tea, sit back and enjoy.

Address: Huaxing Road 54, Jinjiang, Chengdu, Sichuan. 

Award for qin CD Tsar Teh-yun

The CD 'Tsar Teh-yun (1905-2007), maître du qin (Master Tsar The Art of the qin)', which was recently published by the label VDE-GALLO in Switzerland, has been awarded the Académie Charles Cros prize 'Coup de coeur Musiques du monde 2015' in the category Mémoire vivante (living memory). This double album of qin (classical Chinese zither) music is a tribute to traditional qin master Mrs. Tsar Teh-yun (1905-2007) from Hong Kong.

The recordings were mostly privately produced (in 1956 and between 1966-'89) but their sound quality is surprisingly good. Tsar Teh-yun, who single-handedly raised several generations of qin players in Hong Kong and lived to be nearly one hundred, gets the best out of the soft-toned qin, an instrument closely associated with Chinese traditional painting, poetry and calligraphy.

She produces clear bell-like tones, delicate harmonics, and plays in an unadorned and straightforward style that comes as a positive relief after the highstrung, speedy and unidiomatic recordings of some younger players released in the People's Republic. Young talents often take more inspiration from western virtuoso piano playing than from the restrained meditative qin style represented by the likes of Mrs. Tsar. She studied with Shen Caonong in Shanghai from 1934 onwards, and learned things the old way before moving to Hong Kong in 1950.

A fine set for connoisseurs, with 134 minutes of exquisite music, and – apart from one cd published in Hong Kong in 2000 and some hard-to-find gramophone records from the 1970s –the only commercially issued collection we have of Tsar Teh-yun. For further information on the album, and for ordering, see

Silk Road currently a 'hot' issue in China, fosters many music projects

In 2014, the Chinese government announced plans for elaborate economic, cultural and touristic development of what was formally dubbed the 'Silk Road Economic Belt' (Sichouzhilu jinjidai). The idea is to promote the territories of the celebrious ancient trade route(s) between Central Asia, India and China as areas for economic and cultural development.

As one consequence of this policy, music departments in various conservatories have recently initiated research or artistic performance and research projects in connection with Silk Road music. One of the most prestigious ones, “丝绸之路”文化遗产保护与创作 Sichouzhilu wenhua yichan baohu yu chuangzuo (Silk Road Cultural Heritage and Musical Creation) was set up by the Central Conservatory in Beijing, in close cooperation with the capital's National Traditional Instruments Orchestra.

Composers like Tang Jianping, Guo Wenjing and Jia Guoping are involved in promoting and researching resources of traditional Silk Road Music (from historical genres to present-day narrative, theatre and religious music) to be used by present-day composers. Music scholars at the Conservatory's Intangible Cultural Heritage Centre (中央音乐学院非物质文化遗产中心), under the leadership of its director Zhang Boyu (张伯瑜), have set up research projects involving both students and teachers in on-the-spot fieldwork in Xinjiang and elsewhere.

A first concert with new music inspired by the Silk Road took place on 8 January 2015 at the Central Conservatory's concert hall. Works by Wang Danhong (王丹红), Zhou Juan (周娟), Zhang Shuai (张帅), Zhu He (朱赫), Chen Xinruo (陈欣若) and Chang Ping (常平) were performed by leading traditional instrumentalists of the Conservatory, led by conductor Xia Xiaotang (夏小汤).

Several departments of the Conservatory are involved in the entire project, co-including the Composition, Musicology, Traditional Instruments and Conducting Departments.

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