Chou Wen-chung

Excerpts from “Music ‘Commercialism’ and ‘Globalization?’”

Keynote speech, Chou Wen-chung Festival, Taipei, Taiwan, 2003.

It is understandable that the current generation of composers is having difficulty in breaking through this barrier, even though their achievements in Western contemporary music has been outstanding.

Unfortunately at the moment, the arts in the United States have been completely taken over by giant corporations and converted into commodities for entertainment.

…Even worse is to ignorantly apply and distort the essence of Eastern cultures under the banner of cultural exchange. Whereas, on the other hand, composers who are not yet controlled by the entertainment industry are ignored entirely. All of these should be recognized by composers and educators elsewhere so as to maintain one's own “independent” spirit, thereby avoiding the pitfall of blind emulation or imitation, or worse, being manipulated as merchandise.

The peak of Western civilization is over. In the future, the civilization of the world will have to depend on interaction among all cultures, and on uncovering sources or tides that have contributed to cultural changes. Chinese civilization should be one of the mainstreams in the future. Whether that is achievable depends completely on the wenren artists and cultural scholars of China in the future.

To arrive at such a sublime stage of accomplishment in culture … particularly in composing … we urgently need serious efforts in learning and research, in fieldwork, and in cultural conservation. Even more urgent is the need for developing a fresh perception for composing based on knowledge of our own cultural evolution and expectations for its future. Therefore, what I regard as education reform must not be limited to our colleagues at educational institutions. Besides, we must eliminate on a broad scale all the viewpoints perpetrated by feudalistic attitude and colonial psychology. This is why over the past half-century, I was always willing to compose less so as to conduct more research and fieldwork, and to lead projects on cultural conservation and development.

In the U.S., according to its tradition, education and culture always depend on contributions from its private and financial sectors. Coordination and funding are usually provided by non-profit foundations established for such purposes.

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