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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Su-chou T’an-tz’u : an ethnomusicological study of the structural elements of the Chinese southern singing-narratives Tsao, Pen-Yeh Benny


Storytelling is a popular entertainment in all parts of China, and there are almost as many styles as localities. Along the Yangtze River, with Su-chou as the center, the main types of storytelling is p'ing-t'an, the Su-chou storytelling. P'ing-t'an3 performed in the Su-chou dialect, is a collective term denoting two forms of storytelling: p'ing-hua3 narration without music; and t'an-tz'u the singing narrative. The music of the latter is the main concern of the present study. The methods of this study can be outlined as follows. In the introduction of this thesis, the general history of Chinese storytelling is outlined; and the relevant reference sources and the purpose, methods and scope of the investigation are discussed. Chapter I is concerned with the history and development of t'an-tz'u. Chapter II is subdivided into two sections. Section A discusses the four structural elements involved in t'an-tz'u performances: narration, comic insertions, singing, and instrumental playing. Section B deals with the traditional process of the training of professional t'an-tz'u singers. Chapter III includes the transcriptions of twelve t'an-tz'u pieces, selected from eleven schools of singing styles. These pieces are analyzed in Chapter IV, with particular emphasis on the degrees of correlation between Su-chou speech-tones and t'an-tz'u singing. To my knowledge: (1) This is the first comprehensive analysis made on the structure of t'an-tz'u music in Western literature; (2) the twelve t'an-tz'u pieces to be analyzed have not previously been transcribed into staff notation; and (3) the study on the degrees of correlation between Su-chou speech-tones and t'an-tz'u music is the first attempt made on this form of Chinese southern singing-narrative. It is hoped that this investigation will lead to further ethnomusicological studies on the various existing forms of Chinese singing-narratives, on which work has hardly begun.

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