Friday, November 30, 2012

Dee Lusk and China

The ways in which Chinese ideology is expressed and communicated, specifically the ideology of the CCP since the overthrow of the nationalistic government in 1949, is one of the major threads running through Frederick Lau’s treatise, Music in China . Appropriate credit at the outset of this entry must be extended to Confucian ideology, so that a meaningful comparison may be drawn between it and the radical, revolutionary ideologies that were set in place during the rise of new regimes. Amateur musicians in the era of Confucianism were highly valued in the social strata. They pursued music, in Lau’s words, “for ethical and educational functions, eschewing its sensual and emotional qualities. Their job was the propagation of morals, ethics, and empirical knowledge, and the production of music void of any social significance, sensual pleasure, or emotional gratification. Professional or court musicians were somewhat mockingly treated as “music labor” or “music craftsmen”. If you were a member of the elite literati your work was labeled acceptable; if you entertained the imperial ruling class, your work was distastefully unacceptable. According to the two primary concepts of Confucius, ren and li, music is linked to li because “proper music symbolizes the harmony between heaven and earth. All music was designed to promote this idyllic ideology in Confucian rituals and observances. If it were possible to tangibly recreate this Chinese philosophy of ren and li in an instrument, it would most assuredly be the zither guqin. Poetic in nature and contemplative in tone, it stands as the visual representation of Confucian thought in an instrument. Music and ideology in China became fundamentally different following the CCP takeover in 1949. The state’s paradigm of the power of the common people was strongly supported and encouraged, while any practices thought to refute or denigrate the authority of the state were crushed. The most prototypical approved forms of music were the revolutionary songs of the masses (such as “Dongfang Hong”) and “model opera” (yangbanxi). Both genres contained highly politicized messages that resonated with the procreation of Maoist theory and practice. Dee Lusk has continued to express his ideology through performance of his original songs in venues around town as well as the downloadable songs found on the listening page of In particular are two which I will include in my class presentation: “No Darkness” (“I wonder how it feels to touched by the light”) and “War Song” (I ain’t gonna fight your war old man”). Dee’s songwriting is his outlet, his pressure valve. More on this in class.

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