Reflecting and reimagining transnational Chinese identity through composition

Ho, A. (2024) Reflecting and reimagining transnational Chinese identity through composition. Doctoral thesis, Royal College of Music.


I investigate the relationship between my compositions and my cultural identity as a transnational Chinese composer. An autoethnographic method is key to my research. I evaluate my lived experiences and consider their cultural, social, political, and historical contexts, before using these as stimuli to compose music. In doing so, I show how my cultural identity shapes my compositions and collaborations, whilst the process and creation of music affords a better appreciation of my cultural identity. Referring to a range of cultural, ethnomusicological, and creative work, I examine how transnational Chinese communities struggle to belong in the West, the sense of cultural rootlessness attached to transnational experience, the need to reclaim Chinese identities in the face of racism, and lastly the importance of community in my navigation of cultural identity. My practice-based research is driven by a fascination with transcultural spaces alongside the recognition of the continuing legacy of colonialism and its impact on the perception and presentation of Chinese cultures in the West. The ten compositions of my portfolio address these strands in different ways, taking various forms including opera, orchestral work, song cycles, audience participation pieces, and solo instrumental music. This written commentary elucidates the compositional logic of each piece and their relation to my cultural identity, as well as their creative processes that often involve deep collaboration. As such, I highlight how composition allows me to negotiate the complex layers of identity whilst also nurturing connections with those around me.

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