Chou Wen-chung

Excerpts from “Independent is the Key Word”

Originally an address to the Festival Europe-Asia in Kazakstan, Tartarstan, 1993; later published in World New Music Magazine No. 4., Cologne, Germany, October 1994.

Some Asian countries have made remarkable headway in redeveloping their musical practices in recent decades. Impressive displays have been made by such countries as China and Japan. Unfortunately, most of their achievement can hardly be characterized as more than artistic colonialism. Most of their new music, although technically superb, is Western in practice and without the soul that comes only from the integration of one’s own cultural roots. Many of their compositions do display the composer’s own heritages, but more often than not, their heritage is merely grafted on instead of being integrated with Western aesthetics and practices. It is a source of disappointment for me to see so many fine talents who have not yet realized the need for expressing one’s own artistic thoughts through one’s own musical language.

But why does one need a language of one’s own? What would that language be? …Who are our teachers?

Ultimately, I believe it is we ourselves who are our own teachers… If we are working toward a new and free world for all people — Easterners and Westerners, former conquerors and the oppressed — why should we tolerate new musical cultures that are one dimensional?

Artists are the true worriers of humanity. Long, long ago, when Chinese traditional civilization was still intact, artist were upheld as the heart of the society and considered society’s conscience.

In short, what the non-Western world needs at this time is not more or better trained artists, but artists with independent thinking and courage.

Every piece I have composed is the result of a painstaking and time-consuming thought process. Each composition is in turn another lesson for myself to search further as a creative artist.