Philosophizing Time in Sinitic Opera

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This article grapples with the question: how do huangmei opera and kua-a opera listeners experience formal coherence? Both opera traditions abound with changing phrase lengths that subvert the anticipatory listening strategies familiar to Anglo-American theorists. However, these temporal variabilities do not appear to disturb local listeners’ sense of formal coherence. Instead, ethnographic interviews and musical analyses suggest that the temporal sensibilities of huangmei opera and kua-a opera listeners anchor in the cadence of linguistic sounds and, more broadly, in “timeways”—ideas and practices relating to how a community experiences, measures, and expresses time—that stem from a Dao-centered paradigm of worldmaking. The latter yields a conception of musical time that embraces changeability and the pursuit of auspicious timings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMusic Theory Online
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Music


  • Chinese music theory
  • Cross-cultural music analysis
  • Dao
  • Ethnography
  • Form
  • Sinitic opera


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