In celebration of the Year of China, now through June, Orwig Music Library at 1 Young Orchard Avenue is hosting an exhibition of Chinese music: “Cultural Revolutions: A Study in Contrasts” curated by Senior Library Specialist, Nancy Jakubowski. The exhibit features Maoist propaganda songs, “model theatrical works” from The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, and samplings from concurrent works by Asian Pop artists of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.
The ’60s and ’70s were turbulent decades around the world, and 1966 ushered in a period for China known as “The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” or in the West simply as “The Cultural Revolution.” The Revolution’s intent was to root out “the 4 olds”: outdated ideas, customs, culture, and habits. During Mao Zedong’s reign, music was used to support the aims of the Cultural Revolution and the Communist Party. As the Ministry of Culture, Mao’s third wife, Jiang Qing, oversaw the creation of eight “model revolutionary theatrical works” for the Peking Opera. These re-workings of existing pieces became the country’s primary sanctioned musical entertainment, and were translated into stage, radio, film, and television productions.
Meanwhile, outside of the People’s Republic of China, other Asian countries were developing thriving music industries. Singers traveled throughout the region (Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Indonesia, etc.) performing in whatever language was necessary. Pop divas like Teresa Teng and Rita Chao rose to fame, and Hong Kong film and television companies made use of their homegrown pop music.
Stop by the Orwig Music Library to see this exhibit!