132 Music Building, free
Reception to follow
Cosponsored by Asian Studies Center
Flowing down Taiwan's Tamsui River: Towards an Ecomusicology of the Environmental Imagination
What can musical evidence tell us about how people relate to and imagine their physical environments? My primary data derive from Taiwan, notable for its environmental degradation. Specifically, this talk takes performative expressions—including popular song, theatre, and film—that reference Taiwan's Tamsui River as its subject. The Tamsui, which flows about 13 kilometers from Taipei to the northern port city of Tamsui, has captured the imagination of songwriters and other artists for decades. Photos from the first half of the 20th-century depict life along the Tamsui as exuberant. Songs from this period portray idyllic scenes from the river's shores: birds sing, flowers bloom, lovers court. These historic images stand in stark contrast to the Tamsui as it has existed in recent times. As economic growth took precedence over ecological concerns, the Tamsui became an open sewer. The river's imminent ecological collapse became the subject of numerous songs, films, and theatrical pieces beginning in the early 1980s. The song Super Citizens, for example, in which pop star Luo Dayou sang of Taipei's garbage flowing down the Tamsui, was one of the first songs to give expression to an emerging "toxic consciousness."
This talk is part of a larger study in which I explore artistic expressions of the relationship between human beings and the natural world. In exploring these interconnections, I draw largely on the theories and methods of literary ecocriticism.
Nancy Guy, an Associate Professor of Music at University of California San Diego, specializes in the musics of Taiwan and China. She has won numerous grants including two Fulbright and an AMS 50 Fellowship in support of her research. Her book Peking Opera and Politics in Taiwan (University of Illinois Press, 2005) won an 2006 ASCAP Deems Taylor award, specifically the Béla Bartók Award for Outstanding Ethnomusicological Book. Her book was also named an "Outstanding Academic Title for 2006" by Choice, the review magazine of the Association for College and Research Libraries. She earned her PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Pittsburgh in 1996.