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New Media, New Habits: Beijing Opera and Record Catalogues in Republican Shanghai, 1928-1932

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Andreas Steen - Foredragsholder

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When musical recording started in China in 1903, Beijing opera was the most popular musical genre and immediately integrated into the musical repertoire of various international recording companies. Early record catalogues appeared around 1910, yet it was not before the mid-1920s that they included the opera lyrics sung by individual artists. The publication of such a catalogue was motivated by different factors and included the support and cooperation of record stores and enthusiastic individuals in Shanghai.

The paper will focus on the activities that led to the production of the two-volume “Record Catalogue of Collected Opera Lyrics” (Changpian juci huibian), published with its 1205 pages for the first time in 1929. Initiated by Xu Xiaolin, who later became the “Record King” (changpian dawang) of Shanghai, this catalogue not only promoted the sales of Beijing opera records, it also fixed the lyrics of a more or less orally transmitted tradition, made the content accessible to a broader audience and transformed people’s listening habits. Due to its commercial success, the catalogue was annually updated and published until 1949.

I argue that the production of this “Record Catalogue” and its content reflect the state of the art of Chinese urban popular music culture at the end of the 1920s. In order to preserve and promote Beijing opera, however, this catalogue had to include other popular tunes and later even revolutionary songs. As a historical source, it provides new insight regarding both the standardization and internationalization of music and audiences in Republican Shanghai. 

Emneord: Recording, China, Peking Opera, Shanghai
26 mar. 2010

Begivenhed (Konference)

TitelAAS Annual Meeting 2010

ID: 18969432