ABOUT THE PROJECT 研究簡介
At first hearing, the words in everyday songs are often incomprehensible to listeners. Owing to discrepancies between verbal language and music composition, the semantics of the text can become lost in the musical sounds. More so than Romance languages, tonal languages pose a particular challenge for composers and listeners. Relying on pitch to differentiate word meanings, tonal languages are imbued with musicality; yet, ironically, their musical expressions are often limited by the pitch structure of the language. With more linguistic tones than standard Chinese, Cantonese poses still greater challenges for musical perception and composition.
Drawing upon interviews, musical analyses, and empirical tests, this project defines linguistic constraints as a source of creativity in the ever-growing Cantonese choral repertoire written since the 2000s. With a stylistic spectrum reaching from the conventional to the avant-garde, choral music poses additional challenges not found in other genres, notably the issue of textual intelligibility where multiple vocal lines move simultaneously in different directions. Cantonese choral scores will be collected, and a database will be compiled based on stylistic, text-generic, and social criteria. The project also include perception tests in which participants listen to recordings of original and altered musical passages from the assembled works to determine their textual intelligibility.
Addressing the perceptual and creative aspects, this project will show how Hong Kong composers work with instead of against the linguistic constraints to create a new music that is at once comprehensible and expressive. This project is supported by the Early Career Grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council and the Direct Grant from The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK).