Loughborough University
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Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in 'C' Major (1879 to 2010)

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posted on 2013-10-17, 09:26 authored by Mengyu Luo
Shanghai Symphony Orchestra is a fascinating institution. It was first founded in 1879 under the name of Shanghai Public Band and was later, in 1907, developed into an orchestra with 33 members under the baton of German conductor Rudolf Buck. Since Mario Paci an Italian pianist became its conductor in 1919, the Orchestra developed swiftly and was crowned the best in the Far East 一 by a Japanese musician Tanabe Hisao in 1923. At that time, Shanghai was semi-colonized by the International Settlement and the French Concession controlled by the Shanghai Municipal Council and the French Council respectively. They were both exempt from local Chinese authority. The Orchestra was an affiliated organization of the former: the Shanghai Municipal Council. When the Chinese Communist Party took over mainland China in 1949, the Orchestra underwent dramatic transformations. It was applied as a political propaganda tool performing music by composers from the socialist camp and adapting folk Chinese songs to Western classical instruments in order to serve the masses. This egalitarian ideology went to extremes in the notorious 10-year Cultural Revolution. Surprisingly, the SSO was not disbanded; rather it was appropriated by the CCP to create background music for revolutionary modern operas such as Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy. The end of Cultural Revolution after Mao's death in 1976 ushered in a brand new Reform-and-Opening-up era marked by Deng Xiaoping s public claim: Getting rich is glorious! Unlike previous decades when the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra together with music it performed was made to entertain the general masses, elitism came back under a social entourage characterized by Chinese-style socialism. The concept of elite, however, is worth a further thought. Shanghai is not only home to a large number of Chinese middle class but also constitutes a promising paradise for millions of nouveau riches which resembles, to a great extent, the venture land for those Shanghailanders a century ago. This thesis, as the title indicates, puts the historical development of the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra from 1879 to 2010 in C major applying Pierre Bourdieu's cultural capital theory so as to understand how this extraordinary musical currency is produced, represented, appropriated and received by different groups of people in Shanghai across five distinct historical stages. Cultural appropriation tactics and other relevant theories such as cultural imperialism and post colonialism are also combined to make sense of particular social environment in due course. To put the SSO in C major does not infer that this musical institution and music it performed through all these years are reduced to economic analysis. Nonetheless, the inner value of music itself is highlighted in each historical period. A psychological concept affordance, first applied by Tia DeNora in music sociology, is also integrated to help comprehend how and what Chinese people or the whole nation latched on to certain pieces of music performed at the SSO in different historical phases. Moreover, musicological analysis is carried out in due course to elaborate on the feasibility of, for example, adopting Chinese folk songs to Western classical instruments and creating a hybrid music type during Cultural Revolution. Aesthetic value of music is thus realized in the meantime. Archival research is mostly used in this thesis supplemented by one focus group and one in-depth interview with retired players at the SSO. Fieldwork of this research is mainly based in the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Archive; although materials from Shanghai Library and Shanghai Municipal Archive are also collected and made use of.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Mengyu Luo

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en