This paper addresses the importance of singer-songwriters to understanding China's contemporary folk music ethos. Instead of considering singer-songwriters as those who perform their own material, this paper examines them as a discursive field that involves the notion of authorship. The first part of the paper revisits the history of singer-songwriters as a thickening process of the aesthetic and sociological voices in their singular authoritarian role. Drawing on Negus's “unbundling” concept, the myth of singer-songwriters' heightened investment of authorship is deconstructed via analysis of the dynamic relationships between the song, the performance and the real author. We then demonstrate three kinds of authorship across three phases of the making of folk singer-songwriters, namely confession, parody and scenius. The analysis reveals why and how the making of singer-songwriters and the issue of authorship are useful to the understanding of contemporary folk ethos in China. Overall, the transformation of authorship in the making of singer-songwriters reveals the complexity of textual narratives, the expansion of performance approaches, and the enhancement of sociological agency in the evolution of contemporary folk music. Folk music carves out a distinctive space for reflection on the process of urbanization and its effects on the thought and practice of people of different cultural, social and ethnic backgrounds.
The Making of Singer-songwriters: Exploring the Authorship and Ethos of Contemporary Folk Music in Mainland China
Shuwen Qu has a Ph.D. in cultural studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communication at the Jinan University in China. Her main research interest relates to gender, popular music and digital media studies. She is also a member of the study group of Chinese Popular Music and the International Council for Traditional Music.
Jian Xiao (Loughborough University) works as an associate researcher at the School of Communication and Design, Sun Yat-sen University. She has published in Journal of Popular Music Studies, European Journal of Cultural Studies, Chinese Journal of Communication, Space and Culture (forthcoming) and others. She has also published a monograph, Punk Culture in Contemporary China, with Palgrave Macmillan. Her research interest is focused on new media, cultural studies and urban politics.
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Shuwen Qu, Jian Xiao; The Making of Singer-songwriters: Exploring the Authorship and Ethos of Contemporary Folk Music in Mainland China. Journal of Popular Music Studies 1 March 2020; 32 (1): 78–105. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/jpms.2020.32.1.78
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