He Xuntian

He Xuntian
b. 1953, Suining, Sichuan
He Xuntian’s improbable career has seen him develop from a marginal member of China’s ‘New Tide’ (xinchao, see Third Generation /composers) musical avant-garde into one of the country’s most commercially successful composers of popular music. Initially self-taught, He graduated from Sichuan Conservatory of Music, where he developed his own ‘RD’ (renyilu duyingfa) compositional method. He has won numerous awards both in China and abroad, including First Prize at the 1984 All-China Music Competition.
Among his notable early works was Sounds of Nature for traditional Chinese instruments which employs extended techniques to evoke the sounds of the natural world. Other significant compositions include the symphonies Four Dreams and Telepathy, the chamber works Imagine the Sound and Phonism, and an orchestral piece based on folk materials, the Daba River Capriccio.
After joining the faculty of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music in 1992, He began a musical partnership with the singer Zhu Zheqin under the name of Dadawa. Their collaboration resulted in the massively successful CD Sister Drum (Sire Records, 1995), a New Age fantasy on Tibetan spiritualism and folk music that became the best-selling recording in Chinese history and garnered considerable attention in the West. A heavily stylized blend of ersatz Tibetan vocalisms and lush electronics, Sister Drum drew heavy criticism from Tibetans who felt it was a patronizing exercise in cultural exoticism that conveniently ignored China’s controversial occupation of Tibet. In 2000, He Xuntian began work on the score of film maker Zhang Yimou’s major stage production of the opera (or folk musical), Third SisterLiu (Liu Sanjie), which was finally performed outdoors in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in August 2003.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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