Jump to the main content block
Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Acoustic Turn in Orientalism

Vol. 33 No. 2   3/2003


The Acoustic Turn in Orientalism


Ping-huei Liao









Key words

Orientalism, exoticism opera, representation, Puccini, weir, sinology


   Drawing on Edward W. Said’s comments over the span of twenty-five years on his seminal work Orientalism (1978), the essay high lights the acoustic turn in sinology as manifested by such operatic works as Gi ocomo Puccini’s Turandot and Judith Weir’s A Night in the Chinese Opera. It argues that while these operas make use of Chinese melodies and motifs, largely following the tradition of exoticism, they also reveal pseudo-scientific attempts on the part of the composers to appropriate western sinology, in order to produce new operatic sound effect as well as to introduce new technological imaginations in response to crises or limits at home. The paper is in these parts. First, it sums up challenges and critiques posed by scholars from various fields on Said’s work. Second, it shows how Said’s recent remarks may be utilized not only to complement his early observations of area studies but to examine a number of operatic works which deal with China and Asia. The last section discusses in detail operas by Puccini and Weir, to call attention to the acoustic (and, for that matter, visual cultural) turn in sinology.



Author: Ping-huei Liao
Genre: Article
Click Num: