Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Integration of Chinese Opera Traditions into New Musical Compositions

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posted on 2021-11-10, 23:52 authored by Shen, Nalin

Almost fifty years ago Chinese composer Chou Wen-chung proposed a musical “re-merger” of East and West. For many Chinese composers of today a sense of historical continuity and an awareness of inherited musical traditions are important contributor to cultural identity, and a basis on which to build the future. The generation that emerged after the Cultural Revolution found new freedoms, and has become, at the beginning of the twentyfirst century, a significant presence on the international musical stage, as the paradigm shifts away from being European-centered, to a culture belonging to the “global village”. As with many other Chinese composers of my generation, the creation of new compositions is both a personal expression and a manifestation of cultural roots. Techniques of “integration” and “translation” of musical elements derived from traditional Chinese music and music-theatre are a part of my musical practice. The use of traditional Chinese instruments, often in combination with Western instruments, is a no longer a novelty. The written exegesis examines some of the characteristic elements of xìqǜ (the generic term for all provincial Chinese operas), including dǎ (percussion - an enlarged interpretation of dǎ, as found in chuānjù gāoqiāng Sichuan gāoqiān opera), bǎnqiāng (The musical style that characterizes Chinese xìqǚ), and niànbái  (recitation and dialogue), as well as the kuàibǎnshū (storytelling with percussion) of qǚyì (a term to use to include all folk genres), and shāngē (mountain song). The techniques employed in integrating and translating these elements into original compositions are then analyzed. In the second volume of the thesis the scores of five compositions are presented, four of the five works are set in Chinese, exploring the dramatic aspects of language, and may be considered music-theatre, one being an opera scene intended for stage production.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Music Composition

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

New Zealand School of Music


Body, Jack; Garden, Greer