Imagined Amateurism: Post-Tonal Gestures and Modernist Techniques in Chinese American Composers' Depiction of the Orient

Hon Ki Cheung, University of Texas at Austin

This paper studies post-tonal gestures and compositional procedures in compositions by Chinese American composers. Dissonant intervals, i.e., interval classes 1 and 6, are carefully applied on musical surfaces and middle-ground structures, which can be read as an extension of Chinese musicology's view on using dissonance to depict ethnic uniqueness. Conversely, state-mediated folk materials can be recontextualized back to the rural heritage through modernist techniques. Using such strategies, Chinese American composers depict an imperfect, amateur, rural Chinese image that is perpetuated with its foreignness while being able to be assimilated into the modern, Western musical space.