Two ethnomusicology graduate students, Wangcaixuan Zhang and Hei Ting Wong, have contributed articles to the October 2017 newsletter of the Association of Chinese Music Research.
Zhang’s article, “Learning to Become a Buddhist: Performative Ethnography in Religious Music Research,” explores the music of the Buddhist movement known as Tzu Chi and details her research through becoming a practitioner. She writes,
“Besides interviewing key individuals, I started to actively participate in music-making in the context of Tzu Chi activities, which allowed me to combine perspectives of an ethnographer, an ethnomusicologist, a performer, and a Buddhist practitioner. Being a performer in sign language performances, participating in the Buddha Day Ceremony and performing sign language songs with other Tzu Chi volunteers, my experience not only helped me to under-stand how the music is supposed to be sung and performed in different contexts, but, more importantly, how a performer feels during the performance and what those Buddhist songs might mean to him or her.”
Wong’s article, “Bridging the Pre-1997 and the Post-1997: Cantopop Research and Hong Kong Politics” explores the use of Cantonese pop for political messaging. According to Wong,
“These songs were usually packaged in other themes like love songs, and scholars agree that Cantopop audiences did not tend to interpret the music politically. However, after 1997, more industry members began to use the music as a means to explicitly voice their political ideas for the public. Under the increasing political tension between pro-liberal Hong Kongese and the Chinese government, political elements were more explicitly found in Cantopop songs in response to how China began to seize more control of Hong Kong’s interests.”
Zhang and Wong offer insightful reflections on both the process and content of their research and these publications demonstrate the quality and strength of their ongoing efforts.