Jin Xiang

Jin Xiang
b. 20 April 1935, Nanjing
Between 1954 and 1959 Jin Xiang studied composition at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing under Chen Peixun (Chan Pui-fang). He was branded a ‘rightist’ and sent to work in Tibet, where he led a local ensemble, and then on to Urumqi in Xinjiang where he served as conductor from 1973 to 1979. Only after the Cultural Revolution was he able to return to Beijing. He was conductor and composer-in-residence at the Beijing Symphony Orchestra (1979–84) and at the same time retrained in composition, and especially techniques of New Music. Until 1989, he was director of the Composition Research Centre at the Chinese Conser-vatory in Beijing. In 1990 he left for the University of Washington in Seattle to continue his studies in composition, and in 1992 spent a year as a visiting scholar at the Juilliard School of Music. He has since returned to China to compose and teach.
Jin Xiang’s style is characterized by a particular sensibility for musical colouring. His opera The Savage Land (Yuanye, 1987) features a Chinese-style verismo, reminiscent of Russian opera but at the same time permuted by distinctly Chinese elements which include flutes used in the manner of a Chinese dizi and whole-tone-passages in typical shuochang (storytelling) rhythms (see quyi). His Chamber Concerto for Fourteen Instruments (1983) is—again typically Chinese—a study in the reduction of motivic material. Beginning with his stay in the United States, Jin has become ever more eclectic and begun to introduce more and more colours other than the Chinese in his pieces.
Goddess (Nüwa, 1990), for example—for voices, orchestra and synthesizer—is conceived as a collage, juxtaposing elements of African drumming, Jewish chant, laughter and exuberant shouts.
Jin, Xiang (1991). Zuoqujia de kun’gan [A Composer’s Difficulties]. Beijing: Zhongguo wenyi.
Kouwenhoven, Frank (1991). ‘Mainland China’s New Music (2): Madly Singing in the Mountains’. Chime 3:42–75 (esp. 64).
——(1992). ‘Mainland China’s New Music (3): The Age of Pluralism’. Chime 5:76–134 (esp. 118–19).
Luo, Zhongrong (ed.) (1996). Xiandai yinyue xinshang cidian [Dictionary for the Appreciation of Contemporary Music]. Beijing: Gaodeng jiaoyu, 280–3.
Mittler, Barbara (1997). Dangerous Tunes. The Politics of Chinese Music in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the People’s Republic of China since 1949. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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