Apr 19 2023


5:00 pm - 6:30 pm


Department of Music

Department of Music

Research Colloquia Spring 2023
Coloniality in the Music Archives: What Say, Shanghai?

Speaker: Dr. Yvonne Liao (Assistant Professor of Musicology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Date and Time: Wednesday, 19 April 2023, 5PM 
Venue: Seminar Room (11.01, 11/F Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU)

Coloniality, music, and archives—an intriguing jumbled mix. Rather than separate them out, however, I approach them as interrelated terms. In this talk, I choose to explore the workings of coloniality as a simultaneous necessity and liability for postcolonial writing, as informed and challenged by the (skewed) storytelling of music making from the (skewed) archives.

This writing happens in immersive, agentic-speak, entering (myself) into dialogue with British and Chinese Nationalist Shanghai of the 1930s and 1940s. Through its tales and places of music making, irreducibly odd and inchoate in themselves, I crisscross between surviving registers and materials, between my ongoing narrative and the traces of extant source narration, such as hand-annotated markings on a band conductor’s score and the postwar penning of music and tax documents. Shanghai, in all this, has a say: it poses fascinating parallel questions about my positionality and the attendant “musical worlds” of (revisiting) colonial history.

Yvonne Liao is an Assistant Professor at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her interests include China’s treaty port history, with a particular focus on twentieth-century Shanghai and Hong Kong, and the study of socio-canonical lives today ranging from cartoons to performing arts organisations. Her Musical Quarterly article on “Little Vienna” in Japanese-occupied Shanghai was awarded the Royal Musical Association’s 2017 Jerome Roche Prize. She has since published in Cambridge Opera Journal and several edited volumes. Forthcoming work will appear in The Chopin Review, a special issue of Postcolonial Studies, co-convened with Philip Burnett and Erin Johnson-Williams, and The Oxford Handbook of Music Colonialism, co-edited with Erin Johnson-Williams and Roe-Min Kok. Yvonne’s monograph, Imperfect Global: Thinking European Music Cultures in Shanghai and Hong Kong, 1897–1997 is under contract with University of Chicago Press. She is a founding member of the American Musicological Society’s Global Music History Study Group.


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