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Post-Tonal Affinities in Piano Works of Bartók, Chen, and Crumb

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Monica Kang

The book explores cellular pivots as a new means of progression, functional tonality having disappeared in much of contemporary music. Béla Bartók can be seen as a kind of father figure to the other two composers, Chen Yi and George Crumb, in terms of their stylistic, technical, and even philosophical connections. The musical affinities of all three composers reflect a larger body of post-tonal music. Cell constructions and their pivotal motions span the gamut from traditional/asymmetrical to more abstract/symmetrical formations. This study provides insight into universal principles of the post-tonal era and reveals a broader evolution of the musical language as represented by the three composers.
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Chapter 6 Pentatonic Folk Sources for Basic Cells: Chen’s Duo Ye, Guessing, Ji-Dong-Nuo

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Chapter 6Pentatonic Folk Sources for Basic Cells: Chen’s Duo Ye, Guessing, Ji-Dong-Nuo

Many compositions of Chen Yi, like those of Bartók, are rooted in folk sources, albeit from her Chinese heritage. This chapter surveys three piano pieces that are based on Chinese folk melodies. Her synthesis of Eastern folk elements with Western compositional principles stems from the influence of Western values on Chinese culture since the early twentieth century. Contact between China and major European powers, the U.S., and Japan can be summed up in the Open Door Policy (1899), which tried to ensure equal trading privileges and discourage spheres of influence within China. The 1911 revolution that overthrew the last Qing dynasty simultaneously welcomed the incorporation of Western thought, as Chinese reformists saw economic and military advantages in Western policies and culture.1 These events began the modernization of eastern culture. The nationalist movement in the 1920s witnessed the first attempt to establish a “national classical tradition” in a compositional approach that consciously applied Western techniques to Chinese folk melodies.2 The synthesis sometimes entailed performances on traditional instruments, such as the erhu or pipa, with Western-style virtuosity and harmonization. Cross-cultural influence was also evident in the similarity between Chinese and Western orchestras. Western harmonization of Chinese folk songs did not necessarily yield traditional progressions, but rather resulted in heterophonic textures.3 Heterophonic treatment was already common (and suitable) for instruments such as the Chinese flute, double-reed pipe, mouth organ, lute, and zither.4 As part of the Westernization trend,...

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