Circuit Listening: Electric Folk Music and the Chinese 1960s
I am working on a sonic history of the global 1960s from the perspective of a place usually dismissed as marginal to the musical revolutions of those years. I want to write China back into the narrative of how we hear the explosion of new popular and vernacular music for which the 1960s are famous; and by the same token, reinsert the “global” into our sometimes hermetic sense of Chinese cultural history in those years. The book that will result hinges on a discursive category of enormous importance to the articulation of Chinese music, literature, and culture since at least the May 4th Movement — the folk — and the way in which folk music becomes entangled with newly emergent mass media in the 1960s on both sides of the Taiwan strait, with consequences that continue to resonate in Chinese cultural politics today. Examining the ways in which folk music and discourses of the “folk” were remade, reproduced, recorded, broadcast, and projected onscreen, will necessitate an archaeology of the emergence of the new media networks that took shape in the Chinese 1960s. At the same time, this archaeology will open the question of how we might rethink folk music and folk revivalism in a global frame, allowing us to listen to music as seemingly disparate as the Beatles and Maoist revolutionary song, or Bob Dylan and Taiwanese campus folk in parallel, as phenomena produced more or less simultaneously from out of the circuitry of a newly transistorised world.
Andrew Jones is a Visiting Fellow at CRASSH, Easter 2012.
Professor Andrew Jones received his Phd from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1997. He teaches modern and vernacular Chinese literature and popular culture. His research interests include music, cinema, and media technology, modern and contemporary fiction, children's literature and the cultural history of the global 1960s. He is the author of Like a Knife: Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music (Cornell East Asia Series, 1992) and Yellow Music: Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age (Duke University Press, 2001), co-editor of a special issue of positions: east asia cultures critique entitled The Afro-Asian Century, and translator of literary fiction by Yu Hua as well as Eileen Chang's Written on Water (Columbia University Press, 2005). His latest book is Developmental Fairytales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture (Harvard University Press, 2011).