Chou Wen-chung


The Future is in the Past

Heritage is important to the future of our music and culture. For without a living heritage, the future will be hollow. History tells us the word “heritage” is plural; for example, the Renaissance and Tang culture were the result of momentous cultural interaction. Today, to strive for a vibrant culture of our own, we must revitalize our own heritage and learn from that of other cultures. Without heritages, innovation alone will only result in a cultural bubble which, however dazzling for the moment, is doomed to burst.

Having spent decades working on U.S.-China arts exchange and another decade on the conservation of indigenous cultures in the ecologically and culturally exciting region of Yunnan, Chou is convinced that the future of culture cannot be detached from living heritages. Furthermore, given the steep decline of heritage in education, the first step towards the future should be a greater emphasis on learning from heritages. But to learn from heritages, one needs to understand the differences. Visual examples showing traditional Chinese aesthetics will be used to illustrate the differences between East and West, and what can be learned from such comparisons. Musical excerpts from Chou’s compositions will be used to illustrate the synthesis of both heritages.

Outline of Lecture: Introduction

  1. On culture and heritage as body and soul of a society.
  2. Progress of culture/heritage as an ever-expanding spiral in space.
  3. Healthy and growing cultures/heritages intersect and interact with other cultures/heritages.
  4. Examples are what happened in the period before Renaissance in Europe and Tang culture in China.
  5. The growth and revival of a culture/heritage depends on interaction with other cultures/heritage.
  6. Cultural interaction depends on knowledge of both cultures, and understanding of both heritages.
  7. Such knowledge and understanding comes from awareness of the differences between the two.
  8. Understanding the differences is the first step to absorbing ideas from other cultures and to rejuvenating one’s own heritage.
  9. A.The following are visual examples of comparisons between cultures.
    • The examples are only between the modern West and ancient East.
    • Visual illustrations will not include those of the West which are well-known to all of us.
    • Musical examples are taken from my own repertory.

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