SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Music as a Prophecy of Political Change: Twenty Years of Evidence from Taiwan

Nancy Guy 240 186 56
Speaker: Prof Nancy Guy

Date: 6 July 2016Time: 2:00 PM

Finishes: 6 July 2016Time: 3:45 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: DLT

Type of Event: Summer Lecture

SOAS Centre of Taiwan Studies 2016 Summer School
Day Two
Third Event

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Music's power to both monitor and propel political change has been noted by philosophers and governmental institutions since ancient times. Professor Guy's work applies a humanistic approach to a subject typically considered to lie within the province of the social sciences. Taking two decades of musical production in Taiwan as her data, she argues that listening to and contextualizing musical trends offers an avenue for grasping the mood of the people—a force that drives both economic practices and political change.

Beginning shortly after the lifting of martial law in 1987, Taiwan's increasingly free political environment began to allow for the expression of sentiments long banished from public discourse in idioms long pushed to the cultural fringes. The vision of a Taiwan dominated by local culture, forms of expression, and political leadership came into clearer and clearer focus in the music of the late 1980s and 1990s. Guy asserts that these innovative musical creations heralded the regime change of May 2000. Seeds foretelling the troubles that Chen Shui-bian's administration would face over the next eight years sprouted his very first day in office when China banned pop diva A-Mei immediately following her singing of the national anthem for Chen's inaugural ceremony.

Fearing China's retribution, many pop artists distanced themselves from President Chen. Through their actions and their music, performers indicated with crystal clarity that the "machine of power" to which they were bound was located across the Taiwan Straits in the Chinese mainland. Hence, music signaled well in advance of Taiwan's 2008 presidential election the island's future strengthening of ties to China.

Speaker's Bio

Nancy Guy is an ethnomusicologist whose broad interests include the musics of Taiwan and China, varieties of opera (including European and Chinese genres), music and politics, and the ecocritical study of music. Her first book Peking Opera and Politics in Taiwan (University of Illinois Press, 2005) won the ASCAP Béla Bartók Award for Excellence in Ethnomusicology and was also named an "Outstanding Academic Title for 2006" by Choice. Guy's second book, The Magic of Beverly Sills, focuses on the artistry and appeal of the beloved American coloratura soprano, and was published by University of Illinois Press in 2015. Guy is an Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego.

Organiser: Centre of Taiwan Studies

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