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Chinese musical instrument

For some reason, Chinese music, even popular, eludes the European listener. People are frightened by strange symbols instead of the usual Latin or Cyrillic, a strange incomprehensible language and a slightly different melody, sometimes incomprehensible or even cutting hearing. Another reason is the isolation of the Chinese Internet. Most of the European music resources in China are not available without VPN: bandcamp, Youtube, soundcloud and so on and so on. From the outside it may seem that in China there is nothing but the ubiquitous Jackie Chan and his faithful squire Jet Li, and the music is limited to the epic soundtrack of Tao Tung to the film “Hero”.

Of course, this is not so, there exist and feel great any familiar genres, from pop music to post-industrial. Styles last there enough: there is harsh noise, HNW, rhythmic noise, dark electro and even ritual ambient. Add to this a scattering of styles of experimental music in General: free jazz, free improvement, microsound, glitch, etc. — and we get a picture even richer and brighter than in Russia. It is surprising that for the most part all this exists in China a little more than 15 years. Why is the experimental scene there so young and why are these genres so harmoniously intertwined in the musical world of the new developed China?

Industrial and experimental musical styles have come to China and Taiwan with a big delay. The first groups of “non-musical” genres in this region emerged only in the early 90’s, in Taiwan, where only recently removed the regime of martial law, which lasted 38 years. Feeling relaxed, students and other politically active citizens began to organize rallies and demonstrations. One of these demonstrations called “March” or movements of “Wild Lilies.” This meeting was attended by more than 22 thousand people, including future members of the ZSLO and LTK Commune groups. And although both groups were created only years after the March rally, their ideals and approach echoed the revolutionary message of “Wild Lilies” with small nuances in political terms, clearly visible even in the names:

Chinese experimental music

LTK Commune (short for “Loh Tsui Kweh”, the name of the Zhoshuishi river in the Taiwanese dialect of the southern Chinese language) advocated political nativism and full independence of Taiwan from China;

Chinese experimental music

ZSLO (Zero and Sound Liberation Organization) went so far in their nihilism that they were disgusted by the actions of the authorities and rallies of protest movements. To Express their political views, they chose noise music, the most free genre. Noise they saw everything: the sound of wind and water, noise, speech, noise and noise especially, the concept of Noise music, was developed by group leader Lin Chi-way, outwardly resonates with futuristic looks Luigi Russolo in “the music of the future”, but in fact leads towards the destruction inherent in John cage and Throbbing Gristle. This feature is very important for understanding the Chinese underground. Its development was not gradual, as in England or the United States, and even in the USSR/Russia, where experimental music occasionally began to appear in the late 70’s. Taiwan in the early 90’s discovered a whole layer of music, previously hidden or prohibited, and enthusiastically joined in the process of its development.

In mainland China, the situation is not so clear. It’s impossible to point your finger at an album or a musician and say that here he is, the first of his kind, the founder and initiator. Although Dazzling Yao and Yan Jun (musicians and researchers in the experimental stage of China) with one voice praised Wang Fania and his album, “the Grand Rules”, released in 1996, not long after the Taiwan experimenters, grain, which originated the scene, this recording was not. Said Yang Jun: “no One dared this album to publish, so few people even heard him, and no effect, therefore, entry is not provided”. In addition, there is no doubt that at the same time or a little earlier\later, someone less fortunate also recorded an experimental album and could not release it, so simulations on the theme of pioneers and pioneers in this field can be endless.

Chinese experimental music

There is no doubt that in the late 90’s and early 00’s rock music in China was in decline. The reason was the changes in the country’s policy and subculture “dakou” (打口, literally – “leaky”,” punched ” – the name came from the leaky CD and audio cassettes, which supplied the United States to China for processing. They were processed mainly for reasons of excess circulation or because of factory defects. Discs and cassettes were perforated to prevent the possibility of defective or excessive circulation in stores. Most often, the discs lost only one or two tracks, remaining suitable for listening). Political changes have led to the fact that rock music based on protest has lost its main purpose: without struggle there is no heroism, and without heroism there is no romance. Also, according to Feng Hao, with the relaxation of political “mind control” is associated with the industrial and economic development of China and the moral decline of the Chinese: “we felt terribly civilized and this became arrogant.” He also spoke about the phenomenon of dakou, which arose and existed around the leaky CD and audio cassettes: “Listening to foreign rock music, many were looking for it to fight the power of the system, with the current state of things. The more I listened, the more I realized that Western rock wasn’t good enough to try to Express our Chinese thoughts with it.” However, the culture of leaky discs gave China something valuable: knowledge about experimental music abroad.

Chinese experimental music

So, a new policy and a new subculture gave impetus to the birth of experimental music. Rock musicians were looking for ways to Express their protest, dakou hooligans explored foreign experience, and the country was experiencing an epidemic of SARS and preparing the ground for new musical protests. According to Yan Jun’s chronology, the first wave of experimental music swept China in 2003. All, that was previously, he calls prerequisites, rolling in one tight tuft and the first records Feng Hao, Zhang Liming, Wang Fan, and early activities rock avant-garde artists Wood Pushing Melon (木推瓜) and p. K. 14. And this makes sense, because until 2003, the experimental scene lived in complete isolation from the outside world, without penetrating the streets and festivals. In this small world groups were born and broke up, there were ideas for albums, concerts where the audience usually consisted mostly of musicians. The first wave pushed the scene beyond the cozy underground. Festivals of experimental music began to emerge almost spontaneously, here and there, revolving around the Central figures of the scene: Li Jianhong, Yan Jun, Yao Dajuying, Zhu Wenbo and Li Yanang — each of these musicians deserves a separate article, here I will only mention their names in such an impersonal list, but with great respect.

By 2009, the number of experimental labels and festivals was gradually decreasing. Some of the remaining labels switched from physical media to online releases, while others hoped that the sale of cassettes and CDs would help the development of the stage. The lack of fan funding has also hit festivals. “2pi Festival” Li Jianhong, he said, faced exactly such a problem. He was unable to get a proper sound engineers and hire good sound equipment, and over the 4 years of existence the festival managed to create a reputation, valuing which, Mr. Lee and turned the shop in 2007. So did many others. Since 2009, the experimental scene in China is in autopilot mode, moving towards the unknown and waiting for the influx of new blood. When asked about the distinctive features of Chinese experimental music, all the interviewed musicians repeat about the same thing: there is nothing distinctive, at least for now. On the other hand, the absence of a unique “Chinese genre” in the experimental styles suggests that the musicians there create in such different styles and with such a different approach that it is impossible to grasp in this diversity something common. Thus, the uniqueness of the scene is undoubtedly contrasted with the uniqueness of its participants.

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