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Chen Yi

A user-friendly guide to the composer's rich and engaging music

Chen Yi is the most prominent woman among the renowned group of new wave composers who came to the US from mainland China in the early 1980s. Known for her creative output and a distinctive merging of Chinese and Western influences, Chen built a musical language that references a breathtaking range of sources and crisscrosses geographical and musical borders without eradicating them.

Leta E. Miller and J. Michele Edwards provide an accessible guide to the composer's background and her more than 150 works. Extensive interviews with Chen complement in-depth analyses of selected pieces from Chen's solos for Western or Chinese instruments, chamber works, choral and vocal pieces, and compositions scored for wind ensemble, chamber orchestra, or full orchestra. The authors highlight Chen's compositional strategies, her artistic elaborations, and the voice that links her earliest and most recent music. A concluding discussion addresses questions related to Chen's music and issues such as gender, ethnicity and nationality, transnationalism, border crossing, diaspora, exoticism, and identity.

“This welcome contribution to UIP’s landmark series chronicles Chen Yi’s inspiring journey from her childhood in Guangzhou and Shimen to her musical studies in Beijing and New York to her position as an internationally renowned composer and educator. A touching portrait of a remarkable person and a worthy guide to her incomparable music.”--Ellie M. Hisama, author of Gendering Musical Modernism: The Music of Ruth Crawford, Marion Bauer, and Miriam Gideon

"A composer of extraordinary works and a musician of extraordinary talents, Chen Yi is brilliantly portrayed in this compelling study of her life and compositional career. Miller and Edwards display an impressive grasp of the complex political and cultural context of China from 1949 to post-Cultural Revolution. Drawing on extensive interviews, they depict this globetrotting composer’s cultural milieu in vivid detail and persuasively demonstrate the multifaceted and transnational dimension of the composer’s musical world. Their musical readings are vivid and insightful, full of rich information about Chen’s aesthetics, idioms, and distinctive style. This is a must read for anyone who is interested in concert music of the twentieth or twenty-first centuries."--Nancy Rao, author of Chinatown Opera Theater in America

Publication of this book was supported by grants from the Donna Cardamone Jackson Endowment of the American Musicological Society, funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; the University of California, Santa Cruz, Committee on Research and Arts Research Institute; and the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund.


Leta E. Miller is a professor of music emerita at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the author of biographies of Aaron Jay Kernis and Lou Harrison. J. Michele Edwards, musicologist and conductor, is a professor emerita of music at Macalester College and focuses her research on women musicians, especially from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

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