12.D.5. Chinese Pentatonic Idioms as Musical Chinoiserie in Early Twentieth-Century Paris John Chun-fai Lam - 1er juillet 2017, 11h00-11h30, salle 3208


Le 1er juillet 2017
de 11h00 à 11h30

Le Patio (université de Strasbourg)
22 rue René Descartes, 67000 Strasbourg
salle 3208

Séance - Analytical Issues in Ethnomusicology

Pré-acte / Acte

Auteur : John Chun-fai Lam

     The pentatonic sound as defined by the compositional use of the pentatonic scale can vary significantly depending on how the five notes are configured. Referred to as gamme chinoise (Laloy 1912), gamme écossaise (Gandillot 1906) and even gamme pentatonique de forme chino-celtique (Capellen 1900), the pentatonic scale was studied with recourse to geographically separate musical cultures in the early twentieth century. Zoltán Kodály’s ethnomusicological study of Hungarian folk music (1917) proposes a conceptualisation of the pentatonic scale as a minor scale with the second and the sixth degrees omitted with recourse to how Hungarians habitually arrange the five notes. Hugo Riemann’s music-theoretical study of Scottish folk music (1916) shows harmonic implications in pentatonic melodies in the light of his theory of harmonic functions. It is not surprising at all that idiomatic ways of configuring the five notes in Chinese pentatonic practice betray the fundamentals of European pentatonic practices. A key difference lies in the treatment of major third. While the major third is conceived as a consonance in the West, it is deemed as aesthetically the most ‘dissonant’ interval available in the pentatonic collection. This paper seeks to define a set of syntactical features governing the way in which the constituent elements of gamme chinoise can be arranged to sound distinctively Chinese. Through a comparative study of Chinese melodies quoted in Parisian art music and selected European pentatonic melodies cited in sources including Gevaert’s Traité d’harmonie théorique et pratique (1905), it shows that Chinese pentatonic idioms based on the two pentatonic scale-steps – minor third and major second – are integral to the wave of musical chinoiserie in early twentieth-century Paris.

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Opéra National du Rhin
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