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Chen, "Myths from afar: "Chinese Myths Cantata" by Chen Yi," 1997

USC thesis in Music.
August 26, 2009

Moh-Wei Chen, D.M.A.

Abstract (Summary)
Chen Yi (b. 1953), a Chinese woman composer, like many others, was sent to the labor camp during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's. It was during this period that she was further exposed to the folk tunes and other traditions of rural China. The combination of her knowledge of Chinese traditional folk music and Western musical training enriched her musical vocabulary. Her goal is to communicate universal human feelings--the basis of all musical expressions--through her own musical language of tradition and cultural identity.

The purpose of the treatise is to examine how Chen Yi reconciles the compositional dilemma of maintaining the simplicity of the folk tunes while composing with trained sophistication. The analysis of each movement focuses on the compositional principles of the piece. A general background of the piece, such as the folk tunes used in the cantata, the legends, the forces, the phonetics in Chinese speech, the performance practice, and the featured Chinese instruments is given. An appendix of Chen Yi's works is also included.

Through the process of the analysis, one observes Chen Yi's strong sense of structural unity by using closely related motivic material in all movements. She also takes tremendous care to maintain the simplicity of the folk tunes by retaining the speech tone effect of the Chinese language. Her choices of instrumentation further enhances the folk flavor of the tunes. In the Chinese Myths Cantata one finds a unique musical language, which Chen Yi expresses herself with.

Advisor: Vail, James