Fourth Generation /composers

Fourth Generation /composers
In many ways, the ‘Fourth Generation’ of Chinese composers is everything the Third Generation’—the so-called ‘New Wave’ (Xinchao) generation—was not. Although the ‘New Wave’ composers are considered part of a ‘lost generation’, whose education was postponed during the Cultural Revolution (1966–76), as composers, in fact, they were privileged. Not only did the ‘New Wave’ generation study at a time of pluralism, in the early 1980s, when economic and commercial concerns had yet to override everything else, but already, during their conservatory years, these composers were able to stage performances of their own works and to learn about developments in contemporary music largely ignored in previous decades. Most, in fact, had participated in propaganda music troupes during the Cultural Revolution and so had the opportunity to practise their skills at orchestration and composition even before entering university. They also had the opportunity to learn from China’s popular musical traditions by being immersed in the countryside as ‘sent-down youth’ (see xiafang, xiaxiang).
The next, fourth generation of composers trained at the conservatories in the 1990s includes Zhou Xianglin (b. 1963), Yu Qiang (b. 1964) and Ding Ying (b.1969) in Shanghai, and Xiang Min (b. 1967), Hao Weiya (b. 1971) and Cao Jian (b. 1973) in Beijing. Their music reflects very different experiences from those of the ‘New Wave’ generation and often returns to some of the more conservative styles that had been evident before the latter.
Xiang Min, for example, a student of Du Mingxin at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, is convinced that since audiences everywhere cannot understand New Music and since performers are also unwilling to play such music, it is preferable to compose in more conventional styles. The concern with audience response, typical of this generation, is at least partly economically minded. New Music alone simply does not pay the bills. Hence, many of these composers also write pop music (like Hao Weiya, Ding Ying and Zhou Xianglin) or take to scandalizing, experimental forms of music to attract fascinated crowds (like Yu Qiang).
Another distinct feature of this generation is an evident lack of interest in, and passion for, China’s own tradition (with remarkable exceptions, such as Cao Jian). This sets their music apart both from that of the New Wave composers with their interest in the odd, the spooky and spectacular sounds from China’s musical tradition as well as from older generations of composers with their love for pentatonic romanticism. To some of these composers the emphasis on national style (minzuxing) in Chinese music is considered entirely political and they are not interested in politics. Accordingly, like many of this generation, Hao Weiya, for example, made the required field trips to collect folk-material during his conservatory years, but his music does not reflect these experiences.
Mittler, B. (1997). Dangerous Tunes. The Politics of Chinese Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China since 1949. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.
Yu, Q. (1993). ‘A New Generation’. Chime 6:139.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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