Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


School of Music


Music Performance

First Advisor

Kunio Hara

Second Advisor

Donald Portnoy


Cross-cultural musical synthesis plays an important role in the creation of musical progress in the twentieth century. This dissertation is a study on the development of the use of Chinese folk elements in Western-style compositions by Chinese composers. Through analyses of different compositions by traditional Chinese composers, Chen Gang and Chen GuoQuan, as well as Chinese-born American composer Bright Sheng, the aesthetic variations produced by the synthesis of Western and Eastern music is examined.

Chapter One focuses on the development of Chinese violin music promoted by the efforts of several generations of composers. Chapter Two presents the background information of Chen Gang and analysis of his violin piece Morning in the Miao Village. This chapter introduces the reader to the early development of Chinese music based on Western practice and the characteristics of the violin piece Morning in the Miao Village. Chapter Three is the introduction of composer Chen Guoquan and his violin piece Seeing Somebody Off, inspired by traditional Flower Drum opera. Chapter Four introduces Bright Sheng and his violin piece A Night at the Chinese Opera, inspired by the melody of the Beijing opera Farewell My Concubine. Through the analysis of this contemporary piece, we can learn about how the Chinese-born American composer pursued his own relationship with the musical sounds based on the elements drawn from traditional Chinese opera. Chapter Five is the analysis of Bright Sheng’s piece Three Fantasies. In this work, Sheng approaches new sonic effects through the combination of the Kazak and Tibetan folk songs with advanced contemporary compositional techniques. Finally, through this comparison, we can understand the difference between the approaches made by traditionally oriented composers and a composer versed in contemporary musical idioms.


© 2018, Liangjun Zou