- Zhu Jian’er
- b. 1922, TainjinComposer, educatorZhu Jan’er grew up in Shanghai and taught himself to play the piano during his middle school years. Even before receiving a formal music education, he began composing and worked in a ‘Literature and Arts Troupe’ (wengongtuan) in the 1940s. From 1949 he served as a composer for the Shanghai and Beijing National Film Studios. He was sent to the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow (1955–60). Since 1975 he has worked for the Shanghai Symphony as a composer-in-residence. In the late 1990s he went to New York as a visiting scholar, studying contemporary music.His stylistic development is remarkable. His early works, such as the overture The Holiday (Jieri, 1958), a symphonic cantata based on words by Mao Zedong (1959), and a Fugato for string quartet, based on the model ballet The White-haired Girl (Baimaonü, 1972) and composed together with Shi Yongkang, are all characterized by a tonal, pentatonic idiom. As composer-in-residence at the Shanghai Symphony, he attended many classes on New Music held at the Shanghai Conservatory. This, along with field-trips to Guizhou province, are reflected in his numerous symphonies and symphonic poems written in short succession since the mid 1980s. Each explores new dimensions in compositional technique and instrumental make-up.Zhu writes symphonies for suona (Chinese cornet), musical saws and percussion, in twelve-tone, aleatoric and expressionist styles. He incorporates melodies, rhythmic patterns and other structural elements from China’s folk musical traditions. And many of his symphonic works are programmatic. His First Symphony (1986) and his Second Symphony (1987), for example, two studies in manipulated twelve-tone-technique, both deal with the Cultural Revolution. They are pieces of ‘Scar music’ (see Scar literature). Work on his First Symphony actually began in early 1977, when Zhu felt enthusiastic about the ending of the ‘ten years of stagnation’, as the Cultural Revolution would come to be called. Yet completion of the symphony took him nine years. During this period, he researched the Cultural Revolution and wrote In Memory (1979), a ‘symphonic fantasy’.Luo, Zhongrong (ed.) (1996). Xiandai yinyue xinshang cidian [Dictionary for the Appreciation of Contemporary Music]. Beijing: Gaodeng jiaoyu, 697–706.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, 97–105 and 151–2.BARBARA MITTLER
Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. Compiled by EdwART. 2011.