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Title:The a cappella choral music of Chen Yi: 1985-2010
Author(s):Law, Po Kwan
Director of Research:Alwes, Chester L.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Alwes, Chester L.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Robinson, Dana; Blume, Philipp; Ward, Thomas R.
Department / Program:Music
Discipline:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:A.Mus.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):Chen Yi
a cappella choral works
Abstract:The purpose of this study is to provide a useful guide for choral conductors who wish to perform the music of Chen Yi (b. 1953). The goal of this study is to search for an understanding of Chen Yi’s unique musical language, which blends Eastern and Western musical idioms and transforms traditional Chinese poetry into sonic pictures. Chen Yi was born in Guangzhou, China and received her musical training at the Beijing Central Conservatory of Music. In 1986, she came to the United States to pursue doctoral study at Columbia University in New York City. Thus, she possesses dual musical citizenship and her compositional style is a carefully considered blend of these two distinct cultural elements. Her musical language fuses these two cultural traditions in a unique way, using both and never totally excluding one or the other. The overriding goal of her music and our study of it are to understand the unique way in which she makes the culture, language and musical idioms of her native country accessible to Western performers and audiences. To accomplish this goal, we begin with a brief biographical sketch and overview of her compositional output. Chen Yi’s a cappella choral music tends to fall into one of two categories—arrangements of Chinese folksongs and original compositions based on traditional Chinese literature. In both of these categories, we must examine Chen Yi’s process of selection of these native materials, what she chooses to use and how she modifies that material. We begin where she began—with the choice of text (and, in the case of the folk song arrangements, the music associated with it). In the case of her original choral compositions, it is necessary to explore the historical and formal background of the poetry itself in order to understand how Chen Yi creates musical settings that are simultaneously true to her Oriental roots and comprehensible to Western audiences. In both categories of choral music, nonsense syllables play an important part and our next task is to understand how they function within a specific composition. The major focus of this dissertation is on Chen Yi’s creation of a blended array of techniques relating to the use of pitch materials, both melodically and harmonically. Once again, her process is dialectic; she constantly seeks ways of composing that allow both sides of her cultural personality to exist in harmony with one another. This synthesis affects every aspect of musical composition—melody, harmony, texture, word painting, etc. After separate explorations of these elements, we shall apply the knowledge gained to the exploration of a single representative work, The West Lake (2003), which is offered as a case study in both the evolution of Chen Yi’s compositional style and the ways in which that style strikes a balance between East and West.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/44456
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Po Kwan Law
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
2015-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05


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