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Yellow River Piano Concerto Cultural Studies Essay

Yellow river piano concerto is one of the most famous works in representing Chinese music. It was composed collectively in 1969 during the Cultural Trend in China, that was an interval for China to reform in various areas internally. Marxism, which was an idea originally from Russia, was highly introduced at that time by Mao Zedong. It influenced not only politics, but also in other aspect like arts in China. In order to furthering understand the idea of Marxism (mainly in music), in this newspaper, yellowish river piano concerto can be used as an example to explain how the concept of Marxism applied in arts.

Marxism is reactions against the advertising of "artwork for art's sake" and formalism. Marxism assumed that content and function of arts are important. It stresses on cultural, cultural, and economic framework. Adam (2010) talked about that "Marx assumed that the production of art necessarily depended on its immediate context". In addition, "art can't be segregated from the culture that produced it" (p. 66). It is because art is one of the parts of their contemporary society and countries, as a result, other factors, for instance, social and economical factors, are also important in creating artworks. In music strategy, it can be defined as an idea where the composer attempts to mirror and reflect the reality of every day life, to arouse party nature and nationalism in the people. Marx focused on the production of art work, its relationship to the working class, and its exploitation by the ruling school.

In China, Marxism was initially introduced following the success of October Trend in Russia 1917. During the control of Mao in China, Marxism was released as a simple of Mao's ideology. In the field of arts, Chang (1937-1949) acknowledged that "Mao believed that music, art work, drama and books were the most effective weapons in inciting and managing individuals" (p. 903). Mao Zedong explained that artwork and literature must be honed to move forward revolutionary thought. Art work and literature must educate and unite the visitors to harm and annihilate the enemy. Above evidently demonstrates the function of Arts is the most important elements in Marxism that the task itself should serve the united states and such creation is designed for the personnel (lower course) as opposed to the ruling course.

Application of Marxism idea

The source of the Yellow River Piano Concerto

The Yellow River Concerto is a strong historical, politics, and cultural assertion. These make the Yellow River Concerto a robust work.

Yellow River Piano Concerto is comes from Yellow River Cantata, which was constructed by Xian Xinghai in 1939, during the Second Sino-Japanese war. It involves eight movements with vocal performance. It uses the material of folk tunes and anti-Japanese themes. Each movements of the piece is introduced by way of a narrator to show a definite image and story to the audience. The cantata shows the journey of the boatmen while crossing the yellow river. The cantata begins with a minor stream of river. In the middle of the movements, it comes to the challenge to the boatmen that they have to stand on and continue progress without hesitation. Finally, the boatmen can defeat the down sides and reach their goal, meaning the composer thinks that China can fight against the aggressors and handle both inner and external problems. This structure of music is a tool for awakening countrywide spirit and promoting China.

The singers become the boatmen in the task and the boatmen are representing Chinese proletariat, that happen to be highly worried and well known in Chinese at that time under the promotion of Marxism and Communism. They are able to overcome all odds and serves like heroes. Furthermore, the down sides and hinders, which shown in the cantata, symbolizes the foreign (mainly Japan) challenges at that time frame as China are experiencing battle with Japan during 1937-1945.

In addition, the primary theme of both cantata and piano concerto, yellowish river, is regarded as the "mother of China". The annals, heritage and culture of the Chinese language began from yellowish river around five thousand years back. The yellow river also regarded as "dragon" because of its condition. Dragon thus becomes the national ideality for China. We can say that Yellowish river provides delivery of China that Chinese language national nature and idea are largely related to the yellowish river. Because of this, Chinese people deemed themselves as "the child of yellow river". Yellowish river is important for Chinese nationality. That's the reason this work uses yellow river as the main theme to signify China.

The background of Yellow River Piano Concerto

Yellow River Piano Concerto was composed during 1968-1969. It's the period for Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). A period prior to the Cultural Revolution, during Qing dynasty, self-strengthening activity was presented to learn traditional western know ledges to be able to reinforce China for survival. Western music and musical instruments could thus present to China. Piano became popular in the early 20th century and it is one of the symbols for Chinese language modernization.

However, during the Cultural Revolution, under Mao's control of China, Mao believed that there is a dependence on China to revolute and led to a creation of "New China". Chinese traditional were banned and Maoist ideas were introduced with the essential of Marxism. All Traditional western things, including Arts, literatures, and four old things: old traditions, old habits, old ideas and old culture, were prohibited as they are considered as anti-revolutionary.

At the same period of time, an "army forum on literature and fine art" was set up with Jiang Qing, Mao's wife, briefing the military on the bourgeois decadence which got corrupted the arts. A lot of the arts form was banned. The sole survivor was named "Eight Model Plays". The Eight Model Works included two ballets known as "The White-Haired Lady" and "The Red Detachment of Women", five operas known as "Red Lanterns", "Sweeping the Tiger Regiment", "The Harbor", "Taking the Tiger Mountain" and "Spark in the Reeds". It also included a symphony which predicated on the theme of "Spark in the Reeds". It is the talent that was used to promote communist and ground-breaking ideas with the accompaniment of both western and Chinese instruments. It was regarded as "new" form of arts and entertainment at that time frame with the combination of both european and Chinese musical sound inside the has. It seeks as "arts for cutting edge use".

Furthermore, the communist get together also believed that arts should be easily for individuals (lower course) to comprehend and it was no more the property of the prosperous any further. Therefore, in demonstrating the new principle and notion of arts, with discussing Eight Model Plays, Jiang Qing appointed of an committee to write a piano concerto with the basic idea of Yellow River Cantata. The unofficial innovator for the committee was Yin Chengzong. Such kind of structure was not the first try out for Yin. He was appointed by the party because he was effectively transcribed one of the Eight Model Takes on, "Red Lanterns" with the piano transcription in 1968. He was later regarded as the "court pianist of the Cultural Revolution". However, almost all of the structure for the piano section was actually done by Chu Wanghua. Liu Zhuang and She Lihong were accountable for concluding the orchestration part. The task was done in 1969 and the first performance happened on 1 January 1970, soloed by Yin.

The background of Yellow River Piano Concerto experienced already shown the importance of political and social components of this art work, the composition targeted as providing China with political and social functions, which is one of the main components of Marxism in Arts.

Content and design of Yellow River Piano Concerto

The Yellow River Piano Concerto is a work for piano and orchestra that is organized from the Yellow River Cantata. Jiang Qing advocated the musical practice of "throwing out the lyrics and keeping the melody", that was regarded as example to apply Mao's belief "making the old help the new. " It includes four moves only alternatively than 8 like the Yellow River Cantata. Furthermore, the name of movements of the Piano Concerto got small changes to be able to fit the revolutionary situation at that period of time (see fig 1). These are named "The Melody of the Yellow River Boatmen", "Ode to the Yellow River", "Wrath of the Yellow River" and "Defend the Yellow River".

Figure 1: the assessment of activity between Yellow River Cantata and Concerto

Yellow River Cantata

Yellow River Piano Concerto


Song of the Yellow River Boatmen


Song of the Yellow River Boatmen


Ode to the Yellow River


Ode to the Yellow River


Ballad of the Yellow River


Wrath of the Yellow River


Dialogue Melody by the Riverside


Lament of the Yellow River


Defend the Yellow River


Defend the Yellow River


Shout Aloud, Yellow River

Firstly, for this content of the Yellow River Piano Concerto, the primary idea and the storyline is comparable to that in the Yellow River Cantata. It shows the quest of the boatmen (Chinese language people) from the begin to the end of the Yellow River. Through the quest, the boatmen faced several concern and issues. Unlike the Yellow River Cantata, such task from the Yellow River to the boatmen had not been merely referred to the aggression and invasion of Japan to China during 1937-1945 ever again. Within the Yellow River Piano Concerto (1968-1969), the opponent also included other foreign countries like Britain and France, which was considered as reactionary that hindered the improvement of revolution internally in China. Furthermore, tradition elements of China which regarded as "old" was also regarded as the foe and obstacle to China at that time period and in the Yellow River Piano Concerto. The content and representation of the work was not exactly like the Yellow River Cantata. However, the function of the two works is similar which confirmed the national nature of China in preventing against the foe.

Secondly, for the musical form and composition of the Yellow River Piano Concerto, there are some dissimilarities from the western music in order to match Mao's ideas. The first activity, "The Song of the Yellow River Boatmen", is a sonata form which is usually shown in the first motion of the european concerto. However, in order not to give a graphic to people that it was some sort of "westernization of Chinese music", some changes were done in this movement. Actually, for the sonata form, it's quite common to have dual exposition in concerto genre, which means that there is a repeat for the primary theme, enjoyed by orchestra and accompanied by soloist. However, in this piano concerto, it only includes one exposition that is played out by the piano but not the orchestra, in addition, the role of piano is a lot more important in this piece that piano always play the melody with the accompaniment by the orchestra. There is absolutely no exchange for the role between soloist and the orchestra, which is rare in the western music. Furthermore, within the last movement, it is the theme and variant. Although theme and deviation prevails in the european music, it is still appropriate in this piece and Chinese people saw it concerning sophisticated the melodies. This technique is common in folk melody and the purpose of theme and variance setting within the last movement is to improve the standard of proletariat art work to the planet.

Thirdly, for the music composition and the use of musical instruments, this piano concerto mainly composed by pentatonic melodies that is often used in Chinese language music. The use of pentatonic scales is also regarded as one of the characteristics in representing Chinese music. On the other hand, the composers use both american and Chinese equipment in this piano concerto, known as "reformed musical instruments" and "people's equipment" at that time respectively. It really is plainly shown especially in the 3rd movement of this piano concerto. The activity starts with an intro enjoyed by Dizi (Chinese language flute), without restriction on rhythm. Dizi is likely played by improvisation, which is a usual practice for Chinese solo pieces. In this particular movement, piano functions like Guzheng, which frequently representing the move of water by using glissando (some sort of musical approach) frequently. In addition, piano also imitates chosen tool like Yangqin and Pipa (see fig. 2), designed to use hammer-like tools or fingernail to create sound. It's quite common for picked instruments to play repeating notes in order to prolong the distance of notes. The use of Dizi and the imitation of Chinese musical instruments for the piano part aim to make music become easier for staff or farmers to understand. Such use of tools and techniques makes them sounds familiar with Chinese individuals who fit the Marxist idea on Arts.

Figure 2: Piano imitates Yangqin

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Furthermore, within the last movement, there are insertion of two melodies known as "The East is Red" (±-) and "Internationale" (), which is a new materials because of this concerto apart from the cantata. It assured the brand new function of the piano concerto. "The East is Red" is a tune to sing the praises of Mao. It propelled Mao to a godlike position and followed the ancient Chinese myth a innovator was a deity dispatched from heaven. The theme is performed by both blowing wind tools and piano. It accompanied by "Internationale", which is the first communist anthem from the Soviet Union (Russia) at that time. Such approach is aimed at promoting communist ideas in China by under the authority of Mao. The piece ends with a coda which symbolizes the special event of the victory.

Above proves that political, cultural and sociable aspects impact much on the structure technique, style and the choices of musical instruments and materials for the whole piece.


To conclude, Yellow River Piano Concerto experience the ideas of Marxism generally in most aspects like qualifications, ideas and content, concentrate on audiences and the function of itself. They have great significance to China which witnesses the history and political development of China. In addition, it has important function in promoting nationwide ideas and reflecting the problem faced by China at that period of time. The target audiences of the arts are no longer the upper school but they are the lower school like peasants and proletarian, who hold the strongest electricity under the advertising of Marxism and Communism. Apart from that, Yellow River Piano Concerto is also very important to the development of Chinese music. It is regarded as a representation of Chinese language music on the planet that is highly appreciated and should be treasured.

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