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Singing in the Dark: Film and Cultural Revolution Musical Culture

  • Paul Clark
Part of the Chinese Literature and Culture in the World book series (CLCW)

Abstract

Music and film remain central in Cultural Revolution memories to this day. This chapter will attempt to show the importance of films in the musical and everyday life of that decade (1966–1976). It will argue that without films as a medium of promulgating, popularizing, and elaborating the music of the Cultural Revolution, musical memories of those years would probably be much less significant. I will also show how films were a core part of the creation of the model Peking operas that dominated musical life in that era. When new feature films appeared from the studios from 1973 their songs were vital to the impact and popularity of the new works. The chapter will first outline how films assumed these vital functions in popular musical life in the 17 years before the start of the Cultural Revolution and then examine the various ways in which films served music after 1966—including those that may not be obvious. Music and film in the Cultural Revolution offer a case study in intertextuality, in which songs or musical themes developed in a film and a particular context are repeated and become elaborated in new styles in later films, on radio and loudspeaker, in classrooms and workplaces, in performances, and in quiet resistance. In short, the musical soundtracks of the Cultural Revolution decade owed an enormous debt to films. The success of the various kinds of music was in large part due to films.

Keywords

Cultural Revolution Feature Film Film Version Musical Culture Musical Memory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Much work remains to be done in this area. Jubin Hu, Projecting a Nation: Chinese National Cinema before 1949 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003)Google Scholar
  2. Liu Xiaolei, Zhongguo zaoqi Huwai diqu dianyingye de xingcheng (The Early Chinese Film Industry Outside of Shanghai) (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 2009).Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    For a study of the mixed, indigenous and Western nature of Chinese film music in the 1930s, see Yeh Yue-yu, “Historiography and Sinification: Music in Chinese Cinema of the 1930s,” Cinema Journal 41(5) (2002): 78–97.Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    In 1958 and 1959, film studios produced 180 films, which compared with 171 films made in the 1949–1957 period by the state-run studios: Paul Clark, Chinese Cinema: Culture and Politics Since 1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 80.Google Scholar
  5. Isabel K. F. Wong, “Geming Gequ: Songs for the Education of the Masses,” in Popular Chinese Literature and Performing Arts in the People’s Republic of China 1949–1979, edited by Bonnie S. McDougall (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), 112–143.Google Scholar
  6. 4.
    Details on these three films can be found in Zhongguo dianying ziliaoguan and Zhongguo yishu yanjiuyuan dianying yanjiusuo, eds, Zhongguo yishu yingpian bianmu (1949–1979) (Catalogue of Chinese art films, 1949–1979) (Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 1981), 871–872Google Scholar
  7. 6.
    For an early discussion of the appeal of these minority settings, see Paul Clark, “Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Films: Cinema and the Exotic,” East-West Film Journal 1(2) (1987): 15–31.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    For more on the creation of these model operas, see Paul Clark, The Chinese Cultural Revolution: A History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 26–56.Google Scholar
  9. 27.
    Nicole Huang, “Listening to Films: Politics of the Auditory in 1970s China,” Journal of Chinese Cinemas 7(3) (2013): 187–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 28.
    Tian Lingqing, Beijing dianying ye shiji, 1949–1990 (Achievements of the Beijing Film Industry, 1949–1990) (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1999), 157–158.Google Scholar
  11. 30.
    Feng Zhicheng, “Zhiqing geyao” (Educated Youth Ballads), in Zhiqing dang’an, 1962–79: Zhishi qingnian shangshan xiaxiang jishi (Educated Youth Archive, 1962–79: Records of Educated Youth Going Up to the Mountains and Down to the Villages), edited by Yang Zhiyun et al. (Chengdu: Sichuan wenyi chubanshe, 1992), 360.Google Scholar
  12. 33.
    The central narrative of the film features a communist soldier arriving in the district to collect folk songs to turn into revolutionary and patriotic ditties in the midst of the war with Japan. For more on The Yellow Earth and its significance, see Paul Clark, Reinventing China: A Generation and Its Films (Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 2005), 82–89.Google Scholar

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© Paul Clark 2016

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  • Paul Clark

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