Pianos and Politics in China: Middle-class Ambitions and the Struggle Over Western Music

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During the Chinese Cultural Revolution's rebellion against foreign influence, the piano, the musical embodiment of Western culture, became the object of intense hostility. In a nation where the world of politics and the world of art are closely linked, Western classical music was considered an imperialist intrusion, in direct conflict with the native aesthetic. In this revealing chronicle of the relationship between music and politics in 20th century China, Richard Kraus examines the evolution of China's ever-changing disposition towards European music and demonstrates how the late 1900s have seen the steady Westernization of Chinese music. Placing China's cultural conflicts in global perspective, Kraus traces the lives of four Chinese musicians and reflects on how their experiences are indicative of China's place at the furthest edge of an expanding Western international order. From Kraus' study there emerges a picture of an ambivalent nation in which politicians, artisans, and intelligentsia alike feel the uneasy tensions that arise when the forces of modernization and xenophobic nationalism clash.