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The value of missing tunes: scholarship on Uyghur minority music in Northwest China.


In mid-July 1951, the 70-year-old legendary Uyghur master musician Turdi Akhun arrived, for the first time, in Dihua--better known today as Urumchi--the provincial capital of the newly established Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region on the northwestern fringe of China, some 1,800 kilometers away from his hometown Yengisa. A "medium-sized elderly man, wearing a badam cap (a type of Uyghur cap), with long beard, bushy eyebrows, and a pair of small yet deep and shining eyes," (2) Turdi Akhun brought with him a Uyghur musical instrument called satar, a long-neck Central Asian bowed lute characterized by its rich sympathetic timbre. His eldest son, Usul Akhun, who often accompanies his father on the dap, the Central Asian framed drum, also came with him on this trip. Turdi Akhun's eagerly anticipated trip to Urumchi came as an outcome of an initiative by Seyfeddin Aziz (1915-2003), then the vice-president of the Autonomous Region, who had just launched a large-scale research project to "collect and rescue" the allegedly vanishing Uyghur classical tradition of Twelve Muqam, a set of twelve multi-sectional vocal, instrumental, and danced musical suites, closely related to the Burkharan Emirs' court tradition of shashmaqam in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and considered to be the most refined and cultivated examples of Uyghur traditional culture. (3) Among the very few surviving muqam musicians--the official story goes--Turdi Akhun remained the only one who can still perform the complete set of the twelve muqam suites from memory. He was thus invited, along with a few other musicians, to the provincial capital to perform muqam music for sessions of studio recording, as well as musical and textual transcription. The study was conducted by a newly formed "working group" for muqam research, led by Wan Tongshu, a renowned Chinese musicologist of the Han majority, who had recently been sent from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing to oversee the project. (4)

The initial encounter in 1951 between Turdi Akhun and Chinese musicologists, in some sense, inaugurated decades of modern Chinese scholarship on minority music, and the often vexing minority politics involved. In many important ways, attempts to "collect and rescue" minority music, as innocent and benevolent as they may sound, have often been implicated in China's quasi-colonial encounter with its minority citizens in the modern era, both before and after the Communist takeover in 1949. In this article, I ask the question of how the production of musical knowledge has been inextricably bound to the intertwined problems of power relations and minority politics in modern China. I choose to focus on the Chinese music scholarship on the rich classical musical traditions of the Uyghur, a group of Turkic-speaking Muslims who are one of the fifty-five officially recognized minority nationalities in the People's Republic. With a population of well over eight million, the Uyghur reside in the northwestern outpost of the People's Republic, where continuing controversies and conflicts over religious freedom and politico-cultural autonomy have lately attracted much international attention. This article attempts to examine the enterprise of minority music scholarship against the backdrop of nation-building and minority politics in the Chinese northwest. It reflects on the notorious ways in which musical research has been strategically deployed in service of socialist ideals and political goals in this uniquely controversial borderland.

Turdi Akhun's initial visit to Urumchi brought about not only hours of muqam music, recorded on magnetic wire, but also unprecedented attention by the Chinese state to the classical tradition of an otherwise "uncivilized and barbaric" ethnic minority. With generous state support, the Working Group invited Turdi Akhun on a second trip to Urumchi over the years 1954 and 1955 for more recording--this time with a cassette recorder--and interview sessions, so as to supplement the "missing tunes and uncertain parts," and to transcribe the lyrics. As if Turdi Akhun's multiple performances still fell short of comprehensiveness and authenticity, a few years later, in 1957, musicologists in the Working Group went on an unprecedented three-month fieldtrip to remote oasis towns and villages in the south--where, as commonly believed, the most elaborated and authentic forms of muqam music had been preserved--to further search for the missing tunes, in order to come up with a "complete" set of twelve muqam suites. The decade-long research project was concluded with the completion of audio recordings of the twelve muqam suites in 1958 and the publication of the monumental two-volume transcription, Weiwu'er minjian gudian yinyue: Shi'er mukamu/Uyghur kheliq klassik muzikisi: On ikki Muqam (Uyghur Folk Classical Music: Twelve Muqam) in 1960, based primarily on Turdi Akhun's recorded performance in early and mid-1950s. (5)


Turdi Akhun has since then become synonymous with the Uyghur muqam tradition. Stories about his life and music are ubiquitous in Chinese media and scholarship today, often portraying him as a naturally gifted musical genius, who had endured an impoverished life in the pre-1949 "old society" under the corrupt Republican/Nationalist regime and the vile feudal and bourgeois classes. Turdi Akhun and his music, according to these stories, were "rescued and liberated" in a timely fashion by the generous and caring Chinese government in the 1950s through the research project. It should not surprise us to learn further that Turdi Akhun's substantial involvement in the muqam research project and his compliance to Communist cadres also earned him a brief political career: he had been "elected," in 1954, a delegate of the People's Political Consultative Conference--a largely titular political advisory body in China--two years before he passed away in 1956. (6)

What Turdi Akhun did not realize, perhaps, was that the conclusion of the decade-long music collection project turned out to be only the beginning of half a century of musical and musicological encounter between modern China and its minority citizens. In fact, from its inception in the early 1950s, the muqam research project has never been intended as an end in itself. Rather, not unlike the works of many fin-de-siecle European folklorists--the most well-known being the Hungarian composer Bela Bartok--the study of folk and traditional music in modern China, particularly those of the minorities, has often been strategically invested with certain pragmatic politico-musical ambitions. To a certain extent, the then-burgeoning field of ethnomusicology was conceptualized and practiced largely as a national project in China, aimed primarily at gathering raw musical materials for purposes that are beyond music scholarship itself.

The principle Uyghur musical candidate for such nationalized research projects over the last fifty years or so has been the classical genre muqam. In its reconstructed and standardized form, as seen in a typical full-blown staged performance today, each muqam is a two-hour-long multi-sectional suite characterized by a compound tri-partite structure, unfolding into more than two dozen rhythmically and metrically contrasting internal pieces, loosely connected by a micro-tonal melodic mode. The suite typically proceeds from an opening section of solemn and elevated singings, called chong neghme, to a middle section of poetic ballads, called dastan, after which the music bursts into a concluding section of uplifting, dance-like miniatures, called meshrep. It is usually performed by a Uyghur orchestra of approximately 20 or more instrumentalists on plucked lutes, bowed fiddles, hammered dulcimers, transverse flutes, and framed drums, with varying number of vocalists and dancers, both male and female, dressed in indiscriminately colorful and exotic "minority" costumes. Marked contrasts in tempo, dynamics, timbre, and texture throughout the muqam suite further contribute to its musical theatricality.

Existing recordings of Turdi Akhun from the 1950s, however, reveal a rather different soundscape. The only commercially available recording of Turdi Akhun is a three-and-a-half-minute-long excerpt from the opening unmetered, improvisatory muqeddime section of the Oshshaq Muqam, one of the twelve muqam suites, included in the three-CD set that comes with the Chinese-language book Zhongguo Xinjiang Weiwu'er mukamu yishu yueqituxiang yinxiangjicui [A Collection of the Photographs and Audiovisuals of Musical Instruments of the Uyghur Muqam Art in China], published in 2007. (7) The poorly-recorded excerpt features Turdi Akhun singing in a rather coarse vocal timbre, with lyrics that are barely identifiable. He accompanied himself on the bowed lute satar, which, with its rich sympathetic timbre, paraphrases the vocal melody in an elaborated heterophony. Altogether they suggest a musical style that would easily be dismissed by old-school cultural evolutionists as unrefined and unsophisticated, if not primitive and uncivilized.

What music scholarship on Uyghur muqam over the last fifty years has accomplished, rather successfully, is that it has recreated and perfected a standardized repertoire, performing style, and pedagogical practice of the muqam, and, as such, saved the musical tradition from its alleged primitiveness. Recordings and transcriptions done in the 1950s became the blueprint for a large-scale musical reconstruction project, which has hitherto brought about two more updated editions of detailed notations of both melody and text of the twelve muqam in 1993 and 1997. A set of audio cassettes of the performance of all the twelve reconstructed muqam, fully orchestrated, was released in 1993, followed by the recording of a renewed and more extensive performance released on audio and visual compact discs in 2002, both performed by conservatory-trained vocalists and instrumentalists of the Urumchi-based Muqam Ensemble, a professional performing group established in 1989 with an explicit mission to perform the reconstructed muqam suites.

But what exactly does it mean to "reconstruct" an ancient, classical musical work? Musi cologists and performers involved in the muqam music reconstruction project often find themselves caught up between the somewhat fundamentalist search for authenticity and the pragmatic needs any reconstructive performance entails. For example, Abdulla Machnun, a well-known Uyghur musicologist and performer of the Muqam Ensemble, for example, revealed to me that a certain extent of creativity had often been expected in reconstructing muqam music. For instance, he explained, in the original Turdi Akhun recording of Iraq Muqam, one of the twelve muqam suites, only eight sections/pieces were identified, leaving, theoretically, at least two-thirds of the suite lacking. (8) Abdulla Machnun was among the few musicologists involved in the recent phases of the reconstruction project. Apart from arranging and orchestrating the tunes, the job of the musicologists was also to "compose" the missing melodies and sections, in order to "complete" the muqam suites. These reconstructive pieces, Abdulla Machnun emphatically maintained, should not be received as creative compositions; rather, they must be historically informed and substantiated by solid research and prolonged cultivation in Uyghur music tradition. Once he had finished a composition, he would gather other muqam musicians and specialists to comment on the reconstructed music to ensure that it reflects what he called the "original and authentic musical flavors." I asked Abdulla Machnun what exactly constitutes a "complete" muqam. "Each muqam suite," he answered, "should have thirty sections/pieces and altogether twelve muqam suites should contain three hundred and sixty sections/pieces." (9)

As many have noted, however, the length and form of muqam suites vary from one to another, and the "missing" sections/pieces are likely to be inherently absent rather than something lost in the course of musical transmission. (10) Anthropologist Nathan Light's interview with Omar Akhun, Turdi Akhun's younger son, further reveals that there were indeed more than twelve muqam suites at the time when Turdi Akhun's performances were recorded in the 1950s. (11) The incessant search for an idealized, prototypical completeness of muqam, I argue, has much to do with the state's desire to recreate and canonize the muqam as an unmistakably sophisticated and fit-to-be-seen cultural emblem for the Uyghur ethnicity in the modern era. Conservatory-trained professional musicians were asked to learn or relearn the carefully-edited ethnographic notation and to perform the reconstructed muqam suites with reformed musical instruments and refined musical expressions. In many important ways, the music of the Uyghur muqam tells us less about authentic musical details of an old and unchanging Central Asian classical musical tradition from the distant past, as about how musicians and scholars today narrate a musical past that has largely been created against the backdrop of minority political and social life in modern China.

While this somewhat messianic notion of the ultimate completion of a standardized and perpetual edition of the Twelve Muqam remains a scholarly conviction among enthusiastic musicologists, others have found more pragmatic uses for the reconstructed muqam suites. As early as 1951, immediately after Turdi Akhun's initial recording, folklorists of the research team identified at least two potential uses of Uyghur music scholarship: first, to find out the relationship between Uyghur muqam and the ancient court music from China's Tang Dynasty (618-907); and second, to identify useful musical materials for new compositions in the new era. (12)

Following the popular belief that there had been substantial cultural exchanges between ancient Chinese kingdoms and their northwestern Turkic neighbors in China's xiyu, or "western frontier," since more than one thousand years ago, (13) if not earlier, a significant amount of research on Uyghur muqam has been directed towards an historical perspective in order to identify the musical resemblance between Uyghur muqam and the lost, millennium-old banquet music of the ancient Tang Chinese courts, called daqu (literally, "large pieces"), and to unearth their genealogical links. Scholarly publications have devoted much attention to comparing musical lexicons (for example, the terms daqu and chong neghme [a movement in a muqam suite], both meaning "large pieces"), formal structures (for example, the metrically-defined compound tri-partite form), and modal theories (for example, various configurations of heptatonic scales commonly found in both genres), frequently leading to the conclusion that the musical and cultural connections are undeniably close. This argument has been further supported by findings from archaeological sites, mural paintings, and printed documents. (14)

Elsewhere I have argued that, regardless of the reliability of these historical findings, the enthusiasm for substantiating the link between Uyghur muqam and ancient music from China's "western frontier" is not so much an innocent scholarly effort in discerning temporal, cultural relatedness, as it is a politicized attempt in asserting geo-political connections. That the ancestor of Uyghur muqam was already in the repertoire of Chinese court performance in the ancient time has served well as a cogent proof to validate the present-day Chinese politico-cultural occupation of the Uyghur region, echoing the cliched political slogan "Xinjiang has been an inseparable part of China since the ancient time." (15) We should, therefore, not be surprised to read from Chinese scholars that "muqam research is of great significance to safeguarding the integrity of our motherland and the unity of ethnicities." (16)

The second pragmatic use of music scholarship, as musicologists in the 1950s had precisely anticipated, (17) was realized in the realm of new composition and creative theatrical performance. As ethnomusicologist Helen Rees succinctly puts it, the objective of such large-scale, systematic research on minority music "was frequently to find raw material that could be drawn on for professional compositions and staged versions of peasant culture, or for propaganda." (18) Composers and arrangers alike began to employ musical elements as identified in the reconstructed muqam suites extensively in their compositions as early as the late 1950s. Most of these new compositions are imbued with explicit didactic political messages, ranging from ideas of national unity and ethnic solidarity to the wonderful life under the Chinese Communist government in the new socialist milieu. Approximately a dozen extensive song-and-dance works have been created, making extensive use of melodic and rhythmic materials from some of the most frequently performed muqam suites.

A notable example is the production of the notorious revolutionary "model opera" Red Lantern (Qizil chiraq in Uyghur; Hongdeng ji in Chinese), originally a Peking opera and later adapted to the Uyghur language in 1972. The project of "model operas" was initiated during the mid-1960s, when the Cultural Revolution brought about waves of radical, politically motivated cultural movements, aimed at cleansing the so-called remnants of feudalism, capitalism, and imperialism, paving the way for a socialist Chinese society. Eight dramatic compositions were adapted from traditional Chinese operas and ballets, with their plots and texts substantially altered in order to extol Chairman Mao, the Communist Party, and the Cultural Revolution. Arguably the most popular among the eight, Red Lantern was the only model opera adapted for the Uyghur language, based on musical materials taken from Rak Muqam, Chebbiyat Muqam, and Mushawrek Muqam, three of the best known muqam suites. The opera was produced with a similar plot, libretto (translated from Chinese into Uyghur), costume, and stage design as the original opera. Yet the Uyghur version was scored for a full-sized European symphony orchestra blended with an ensemble of traditional Uyghur musical instruments (as opposed to Chinese musical instruments in the Chinese-language "model operas"). The premiere of the opera in Urumchi in 1972 and the subsequent two-hundred-odd performances in other towns in Xinjiang (as well as the notable Beijing premiere in 1975) were reportedly huge successes. (19)


The production of Red Lantern, along with other muqam-inspired new compositions, involved not only composers but also musicologists of the muqam research project. In fact, it is not uncommon for music scholars to assume the role of composer in new minority musical and theatrical productions, particularly those from the early 1950s to the late 1970s. One of the notable examples is the much-respected Chinese musicologist Zhou Ji (1943-2008), a prolific scholar of Uyghur music who had composed dozens of minority-themed folksongs and substantially involved in the production of many state-sponsored Uyghur musical and theatrical works, including Red Lantern. (20)

The composer-folklorist aptly embodies the Communist ideal of finding pragmatic use for music scholarship, and is no stranger to music historians. The legendary sixteenthcentury Uyghur princess Amanisakhan (1534-1567), for example, is often portrayed and accredited today as the collector, arranger, and composer of the twelve Uyghur muqam. (21) A better-known example in the modern era is the prolific Han-Chinese composer-folklorist Wang Luobin (1913-1996), who is frequently dubbed the "king of Western folksongs." Wang Luobin had spent most of his life collecting minority folksongs in the Chinese northwest and, with the musical materials contained in the folksongs collected, composed hundreds of minority-themed "Xinjiang folksongs"--or what ethnomusicologist Yang Mu calls "artificial folksongs." (22)

Intended to be sung entirely in Chinese, most of these fabricated "minority folksongs" are characterized by a simple duple meter, with an upbeat, dance-like feel, permeated with lyrics that often portray minority women as sexualized beings dressed in exotic costumes, living an unrestrained lifestyle filled with joyful singing and dancing. The much-romanticized and orientalistic images thus evoked are consistent with the cliched, officially-endorsed representation of ethnic minorities as politically subservient citizens who are "good-at-singing-and-dancing," and as brothers and sisters of the harmonious family of the Chinese nation. (23) In many important ways, reconstructed minority music has provided a powerful means through which progressive socialist ideals and political messages are disseminated and internalized among Han and minority citizens in modern China.

On an intensely hot afternoon in late June 2005, I found myself arriving, via a long-distance bus, in Pichan (known as "Shanshan" by the Chinese), an oasis town in the vicinity of the Turpan (romanized as "Tulufan" in Pinyin or Turfan in English) Depression, some four hundred kilometers east of Urumchi. The thermometer read 45 degrees Celsius. The trip was one of the few I made during my fieldwork in the Uyghur region to study the four or five surviving regional muqam traditions, one of which is the Turpan muqam, an eastern variety of the Uyghur muqam tradition. Pichan is the presumed birthplace of Turpan muqam. It is also where the historical palace of the Uyghur Prince of Lukchun is located. (24) Until the 1990s, regional muqam traditions, such as the Turpan muqam, remained relatively unknown to the outside world, due partly to the national muqam revival project, which, while elevating the reconstructed Twelve Muqam to the status of canonic pan-Uyghur traditional music, has subsumed the rich variety of regional muqam traditions. Serious and systematic efforts to study regional muqam began in the early 1990s, resulting in the publication of volumes of musical notations and audiovisual recordings. (25)

I was accompanied on the trip by a Uyghur musician from Urumchi. Upon arrival, we were introduced to one of the renowned local musicians, whom I will call Abliz, in his house, located in a dadui. The term dadui is the short form of shenchan dadui, literally, "large production team," a Chinese term referring to a collectivized unit for agricultural production dating from the intensely socialist period of the 1960s and 1970s. Somewhat obsolete today, the term is occasionally used to refer to a village-level administration unit. Abliz was a 70-year-old Uyghur man who certainly looked young for his age. We spent the entire evening in his house with him and two other elderly Uyghur musicians, whom Abliz had invited to join us after their daily farm work. The musicians were talkative and affectionate, and seemed almost indefatigable when playing their musical instruments--the steel-string plucked lute tembur and the nylon-/silk-string plucked lute dutar--once they had started playing and singing. They also appeared to be extremely at ease with the presence of my camera and microphone. I was immediately reminded of the myriad stories I had read from the state media about the hospitality of minority village musicians to visiting folklorists, who are frequently Han Chinese. These stories often portray how village musicians are delighted by the visit of the folklorists that they would immediately leave their farm work and joyfully sing and dance for the visitors. (26)

With few exceptions, field research on minority music in China has largely been practiced as short-term data-collecting excursions rather than lengthy field immersion as favored by most Euro-American ethnomusicologists. Funded almost exclusively by the state and closely tied to its latest strategic politico-cultural plans, most of these ethnographic projects are conducted under close official scrutiny and by folklorists typically affiliated with major research units or academic institutions in Urumchi, Beijing, or other Chinese metropolises. Few Han Chinese musicologists and folklorists--except for a few senior scholars, such as the renowned musicologist Zhou Ji--bother to learn the Uyghur language, let alone the local dialects, and rely heavily on government officials or Communist cadres of the local cultural bureau for contacts and translations. Visiting folklorists typically request local officials to gather folk musicians--who would otherwise be working in farms or factories--and organize performance sessions that are specially tailored for them. With their expensive equipment, the folklorists then make systematic audiovisual recordings to "collect" the music for detailed laboratory and analytical work back in Urumchi or Beijing.

Abliz revealed to us that a group of Chinese musicologists, probably from Beijing or Shanghai, had recently visited the village and the local cultural bureau had organized for them a meshrep, a form of song-and-dance gathering traditionally held for festival celebrations and welcoming guests that had lately become a tourist attraction. Abliz was among the handful of musicians who had been asked to perform for the musicologists. Musicians in the villages typically receive a small amount of cash or other forms of reimbursement for their performance, either from the visiting musicologists or the local cultural bureau. The relationship between music scholars and minority musicians, however, has not been as pleasant-sounding as the state media have portrayed. A few years ago, Abliz recalled, one of the elderly musicians in his group had been diagnosed with a critical eye disease that required immediate surgery. The musicians could not afford the costly surgery and demanded 1,000 Chinese yuan (about USD$120) from a Chinese folklorist--who had made countless recordings of them over the past few years--during one of his visits, in order to sponsor the surgery cost. The folklorist refused. Consequently, according to Abliz, his group was penalized for making the request; they were dropped from the list of musicians selected by the state cultural bureau for a European performance tour in 2000.

Stories such as the one Abliz told are far from rare; they speak to the often uneasy relationship between researchers and the researched, as well as its problematic ethnopolitical implication. In this article, I have demonstrated that problems in minority music scholarship are in many ways reminiscent of and implicated in China's pseudo-colonial presence in the territory. Carefully engineered by state agents, research projects have been strategically deployed to fulfill political goals. The large-scale, state-sponsored muqam research project, for example, has been at the center of reconstructing and reviving the Uyghur classical muqam tradition. Its outcome frequently provides raw musical materials for new compositions and appropriated "minority folksongs," which have worked effectively with political propaganda to fabricate an idealized image of ethnic minorities as musically talented yet politically subservient citizens of the People's Republic. Purported historical connections between Uyghur muqam and ancient Chinese court music, in addition, are often utilized to substantiate China's claim for territorial integrity of its northwestern frontier. Often suffused with discourses of cultural progress and development, minority music scholarship works as much to preserve the assumingly vanishing musical traditions as to "civilize" their alleged primitiveness, bringing them into the orbit of Chinese modernization. All in all, I argue, it showcases a modernist reformism on which the Chinese state relies to homogenize its domestic racial and ethnic others. Pressing questions of cultural ownership, ethnographic authority, and sociopolitical inequality--which are all deeply entrenched in ethnic politics yet regularly eradicated from the state's normative accounts of minority history, musical traditions, and musicians' life stories--remain at the heart of minority music scholarship in present-day China.

Commercially Available Recordings of Uyghur Music

Bu dunya--This World: Songs and Melodies of the Uighurs. Leiden, the Netherlands: Pan Record, 1995. Compact disc (PAN 2027)

Chine, Xinjiang: La route de la soie (China, Xinjiang: The Silk Road). Boulogne, France: Playasound, 1991. Compact disc (PS 65087).

Chabbiat Mukam. Performed by Xinjiang Mukam Art Ensemble. World Music Library. Tokyo: Kings Record, 1999. Compact disc (KICC 5237).

Don't Torment Me Dear. Performed by Mukam Art Troupe of Xinjiang. Hong Kong: Hugo, 2001. Compact disc (HRP 7170-2).

Hami mukamu (Hami Muqam). Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1994. Audio cassette accompanies transcription.

Hong meigui: Xinjiang qiyue (The Red Rose: Xinjiang Instrumental Music). Hong Kong: Hugo, 1998. Compact disc (HRP 7169-2).

Instrumental Music of the Uighurs. World Music Library. Tokyo: King Record, 1991. Compact disc (KICC 5138)

Junggo Uyghur kheliq nakhshiliri: Ili nakhshilirining bayoni (Chinese Uyghur Folksong: Col lec tion of Ili Folksongs). Urumchi: Xinjiong un-sin neshriyati, 2008 DVD (ISRC CN-H11-08-308-00/V.J16).

Turkestan chinois/Xinjiang: Musiques ouigoures (Chinese Turkestan/Xinjiang: Uyghur music). Paris: Ocora, 1990. Compact disc (OCD 559092/3, C 559092/93)

The Uygur Musicians from Xinjiang: Music from the Oasis Towns of Central Asia. Ace/ Globe Style, 2000. Compact disc (CDORBD 098).

Vocal music of Uighurs. Tokyo: King Record, 1991. Compact disc (KICC 5139).

Uyghur Dolan toqquz muqami (Uyghur Dolan nine muqam). Mekit, Xinjiang: JKP Mekit nahiylik komteti, Mekit nahiylik khelq hokumiti. Video CD.

Xinjiang fengqing (Flavors of Xinjiang). Performed by Xinjiang Song and Dance Troupe. BMG Hong Kong, 1993. Compact disc (74321-18460-2)

Zhongguo Weiwu'er shier mukamu (Uyghur Twelve Muqam). Urumchi: Xinjiang yinxiang chubanshe, 2001. Compact disc (ISRC CN-H11-02-365-00/V.J6)

Zhongguo Xinjiang Weiwu'er mukamu yishu yueqituxiang yinxiangjicui (A Collection of the Photographs and Audiovisuals of Musical Instruments of the Uyghur Muqam Art in China). Beijing: Zhongguo yinyue xueyuan [Central Music Conservatory], 2007. Compact disc accompanies text.

Published editions of (notated) Uyghur muqam

Daolang mukamu de shengtai yu xingtai yanjiu (Research on the Context and Content of Dolan Muqam). Beijing: Zhongyang yinyue xueyuan chubanshe, 2004.

Tulufan mukamu/Turpan muqami (Turpan Muqam). Edited by Shanshan Xian Renmin Zhengfu Wentiju. Beijing: Minzu chubanshe, 1999.

Weiwu'er Duolang mukamu (Uyghur Dolan Muqam). Edited by Maigaiti Xian Duolang Mukamu Yanjiuhui et al. Urumchi: Xinjiang meishu sheying chubanshe, 1996.

Weiwu'er gudian yinyue: Hami mukamu/Uyghur kilassik muzikisi: Qumul muqamliri (Uyghur Classical Music: Qumul Muqam). Edited by Xinjiang Weiwu'er Zizhiqu Hami diqu wenhuachu. Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1994.

Weiwu'er minjian gudian yinyue: Shi'er mukamu/Uyghur kheliq klassik muzikisi: On ikki Muqam (Uyghur Folk Classical Music: Twelve Muqam). Edited by Twelve Muqam Editing Group. 2 vols. Beijing: Yinyue chubanshe and Minzu chubanshe, 1960.

Weiwu'er shier mukamu/Uyghur on ikki muqami (Uyghur Twelve Muqam). Edited by Twelve Muqam Research Association et al. 12 vols. Urumchi: Xinjiang renmin chubanshe, 1993.

Weiwu'er shier mukamu/Uyghur on ikki muqami (Uyghur Twelve Muqam). Edited by Twelve Muqam Research Association et al. 13 vols. Beijing: Zhongguo dabaike quanshu chubanshe, 1997.

Zhongguo minjian qiyuequ jicheng: Xinjiang juan (Anthology of Chinese Instrumental Music: Xinjiang). Edited by Zhou Ji et al. 2 vols. Beijing: ISBN Center, 1996.

(2.) Wan Tongshu, "Shouji zhenli shi'er mukamu jishi" [On the collection and editing of Twelve Muqam], in Weiwu'er mukamu yanjiu [Research on Uyghur muqam], edited by Liu Kuili and Lang Ying (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1997), 37-47, esp. 38.

(3.) For two recent, book-length studies on Uyghur Twelve Muqam see Rachel Harris, Musical Canon in Chinese Central Asia (London: Ashgate, 2008), and Nathan Light, "Slippery Paths: The Performance and Canonization of Turkic Literature and Uyghur Muqam Song in Islam and Modernity" (Ph.D. dissertation, Indiana University, 1998).

(4.) Wan Tongshu, 37-47.

(5.) The published transcription includes only single-line, text-less vocal melodies of the muqam suites, printed entirely in staff notation. It should be noted that the original text of Turdi Akhun was not published until 1986 (separately as poetic work more than three decades after it was transcribed; see Qurban Barat, Shi'er mukamu geci [Lyrics of the Twelve Muqam] (Urumchi: Xinjiang qingshaonian chubanshe, 1986). The reason for the delayed publication remains largely unclear. Abdushukur Turdi, "Lun Tu'erdi Ahong yanchang de 'Shi'er mukamu' geci" [On the Lyrics of Turdi Akhun's Performance], in Diliujie guoji mukamu yantaohui lunwenji [Collected Essays from the Sixth International Muqam Conference] (Beijing: Zhongyang yinyue xueyuan chubanshe, 2007), 92-101, provides a useful account on the original Turdi Akhun muqam text. Nathan Light's 1998 dissertation (cited in fn. 3 above) also has an extremely extensive study on muqam literature. See also Liu Feng, "Xinjiang Weiwu'er zu minjian gudian yinyue: Shi'er mukamu ji shouji gongzuo jiandan jieshao" [Xinjiang Uyghur Folk Classical Music: A Simple Introduction to the Twelve Muqam and Its Collecting Works] Zhongguo yinyue 1 (1987 [1951]): 27-28; Memetchnun, "Shi'er mukamu chuban de qianqian houhou" [Anecdote about the Publication of Twelve Muqam], in Weiwu'er mukamu yanjiu [Research on Uyghur Muqam], edited by Liu Kuili and Lang Ying (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1997), 28-36, esp. 30-33; Wan Tongshu, 37-47; and Zhou Ji, Mukamu [Muqam] (Hangzhou: Zhejiang renmin chubanshe, 2005), 214-15.

(6.) See Ahmetjan Ahmet, "Weiwu'er shi'er mukamu jiqi chuanren" [Uyghur muqam and Its Successors], translated by Du Shaoyuan, in Weiwu'er mukamu yanjiu [Research on Uyghur muqam], edited by Liu Kuili and Lang Ying (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1997), 207-21, and Wan Tongshu, 37-47, for more on Turdi Akhun.

(7.) Zhongguo Xinjiang Weiwu'er mukamu yishu yueqituxiang yinxiangjicui [A Collection of the Photographs and Audiovisuals of Musical Instruments of the Uyghur Muqam Art in China], Beijing: Zhongguo yinyue xueyuan [Central Music Conservatory], 2007.

(8.) The existing sections, according to Abdulla Machnun, include five pieces from the initial chong neghme section and three pieces from the final meshrep section.

(9.) Interview with Abdulla Machnun, 26 May 2005, in Urumchi.

(10.) Liu Feng, 28.

(11.) Light, 31.

(12.) See Liu Feng, 28, for an oft-cited example.

(13.) The term xiyu, literally "western frontier" or "western region," vaguely refers to what is today Xinjiang and Central Asia, and sometimes more broadly to the provinces of Gansu and Ningxia, as well as Tibet, the Middle East, the Indian subcontinent, and even some parts of Eastern Europe.

(14.) See Guan Yewei, "Qiuci yue, gaochang yue yu weiwu'er mukamu de guanxi" [The Relationship between Qiuci Music, Gaochang Music, and Uyghur Muqam], in Weiwu'er mukamu yanjiu [Research on Uyghur Muqam], edited by Liu Kuili and Lang Ying (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1997), 116-21; Huang Xiangpeng, "Dui beisong qiuci bu Wuchunfeng daqu de duanxiang" [Thoughts on the Daqu Wuchunfeng from the Northern Song Dynasty], in Weiwu'er mukamu yanjiu [Research on Uyghur Muqam], edited by Liu Kuili and Lang Ying (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1997), 122-28; Jin Jianmin, "Xixiyan yu Kashi mukamu zhong de 'meixilaipu'" [Xixiyan and the Meshrep Section of Kashgar Muqam], in Weiwu'er mukamu yanjiu [Research on Uyghur Muqam], edited by Liu Kuili and Lang Ying (Beijing: Zhongyang minzu daxue chubanshe, 1997), 129-41; and Wang Zengwan, "Mukamu de diaoshi lilun yu Suzipo de wudan qisheng" [Modal Theory of Muqam and Suzipo's Wudan Qqisheng], in Sichouzhilu yuewu yishu [Music and Dance along the Silk Road], edited by Xinjiang yishu bianji bu (Urumchi: Xinjiang renmin chubanshe, 1985), 110-26, for a few notable examples.

(15.) Chuen-Fung Wong, "The Future of the Uyghur Musical Past: Reconstructing Uyghur Muqam in Chinese Central Asia," Asian Musicology 9 (2006): 7-62, esp. 24-28.

(16.) Li Jilian, et al., "Weiwu'er mukamu shenyi gongzuo fangtan" [An Interview on the Project of Applying for Muqam as UNESCO's Oral and Intangible Cultural Heritage], Xinjiang yishu xueyuan xuebao 2 (2005):1-14, esp. 5.

(17.) See again Liu Feng, 28.

(18.) Helen Rees, "[Music of China's national minorities:] Cultural Policy, Music Scholarship, and Recent Development," in The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, ed. Robert Provine, Yoshiko Tokumaru, and J. Lawrence Witzleben (New York: Routledge, 2002), 7:441-46, esp. 444.

(19.) Zhou Ji, et al., "Xinjiang geju shilue II" [A Brief History of Xinjiang Musical Theatres II], Xinjiang yishu xueyuan xuebao 3, no. 1 (2005): 38-48 and 65, esp. 42-43.

(20.) See Wu Shoupeng, "Caizikeranqu, jinjiyongshicun: zhuisi zhuming minzu yinyuexuejia Zhou Ji xiansheng" [Remembering the Famous Ethnomusicologist Zhou Ji], Xinjiang yishu xueyuan xuebao 3, no. 6 (2008): 17-20 for an overview of his life and scholarship.

(21.) Light, 327-44.

(22.) Yang Mu, "Academic Ignorance of Political Taboo? Some Issues in China's Study of its Folk Song Culture." Ethnomusicology 38, no. 2 (1994): 303-20, esp. 317.

(23.) In addition to the discontent among the Uyghur about the much-politicized representation of minority life in these fabricated folksongs, Wang Luobin is also notorious for being accused as a song thief, who had allegedly "stolen" Uyghur folksongs and made it his own. See Harris, 381-405, for a detailed discussion of the songs written by Wang Luobin, with particular attention to issues of musical ownership and representation.

(24.) Li Baomin, Qinxian shang de jiayuan: Tulufan mukamu yiren jishi [At Home on the Strings of the Instrument: Musicians of Turpan Muqam] (Urumchi: Xinjiang meishu shying chubanshe, 2005), and Tulufan mukamu [Turpan Muqam], Minzu chubanshe, 1999 (Compact disc).

(25.) Ethnographic findings suggest that regional muqam suites are generally fewer in number, shorter, and less elaborated in formal structure. Dolan muqam, a regional muqam genre from the southwest, for example, has only nine suites, each of which is normally shorter than ten minutes. See Weiwu'er gudian yinyue: Hami mukamu/Uyghur kilassik muzikisi: Qumul muqamliri [Uyghur classical music: Qumul muqam], edited by Xinjiang Weiwu'er Zizhiqu Hami diqu wenhuachu (Beijing: Renmin yinyue chubanshe, 1994); Weiwu'er Duolang mukamu [Uyghur Dolan Muqam], edited by Maigaiti xian Duolang mukamu yanjiuhui et al. (Urumchi: Xinjiang meishu shying chubanshe, 1996); and Tulufan mukamu/Turpan muqami (Turpan muqam), edited by Shanshan xian renmin zhengfu wentiju (Beijing: Minzu chubanshe, 1999).

(26.) For a recent example, see a brief biographical account of the recently deceased musicologist Zhou Ji on the website of Guangming ribao [Guangming Daily], a longstanding mouthpiece of the Communist Chinese state, at, posted on 14 May 2008.

Chuen-Fung Wong (1)

(1.) Chuen-Fung Wong is an assistant professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. This article is based in part on his fieldwork in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region over the academic year 2004/05. An earlier version of this article was presented at the biennial conference of the International Council for Traditional Music in Vienna, Austria, in 2007. He may be reached via email at
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Author:Wong, Chuen-Fung
Publication:Fontes Artis Musicae
Date:Jul 1, 2009
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