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Community in Chinese Street Music: Sound, Song and Social Life

HORLOR, SAMUEL,PATRICK (2017) Community in Chinese Street Music: Sound, Song and Social Life. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Jiqing guangchang is a form of amateur music performance event in Wuhan, a major city in central China. Groups of singers take turns to perform well-known Chinese popular songs for a few hours each afternoon and evening in squares, on street corners, and in parks around the city. Audiences take an active part by offering performers cash tips. Certain discourses surrounding contemporary urban life have portrayed experiences with popular music in these modern city contexts as distant from communal meaning. My ethnography of these performances and their surrounding social worlds is geared towards assessing the significance of community here, while also contributing to an understanding of the notion in contemporary urban China.

Musical activity in jiqing guangchang is mundane, mainstream and rarely inspires fervent commitment or responses from participants. I analyse material from its spatial and sonic, economic, performative and social sides to look beyond understandings of community that are based on ideologies of kinship and belonging. I develop the discussion towards community’s embodied and material-level foundations, manifest in the mutual orientation and coexistence strategies of participants, their modes of sociability, and the designation and sharing of social territories. Thus, various limitations in current discourses of music and community can be transcended, particularly those tied to binary understandings of community’s position in relation to society, individualism, and several other key concepts. I aim to highlight that in contemporary urban situations, music’s ability to engender collective meaning is not only tied to ritualised contexts or those where divisive identity issues are prominent. Instead, my analysis of jiqing guangchang brings to the fore underlying and everyday modes of collective engagement that may be of deep-seated significance in interpreting all kinds of musical contexts.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Music, Department of
Thesis Date:2017
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:15 Feb 2017 14:56

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