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Author(s) Unknown, and . Yue Ji 樂記—Record of Music: Introduction, Translation, Notes, and Commentary

1995, Asian Music 26(2): 1-96.

Summary: The earliest extant Chinese treatise on music. The Yue Ji presents largely Confucian ideas on the connections between music, self-cultivation, proper governance, and the realization of natural patterns. Human character is described as a musical progression with ties to the transformation of sound into a kind of music that is distinguished by its relationship to virtue. The exact identity of the author(s) is debated, and it is believed to have been compiled from various sources no later than the middle of the Western Han dynasty (206BCE-24CE).

Comment: This text is appropriate for an aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy course. It is best accessed by a reader with a basic understanding of early Chinese philosophy (especially Confucianism).

Coleman, Elizabeth Burns, Rosemary J. Coombe and Fiona MacArailt. A Broken Record: Subjecting ‘Music’ to Cultural Rights

2012, In The Ethics of Cultural Appropriation, edited by James O. Young and Conrad G. Brunk: Blackwell Publishing.

Summary: This article presents multiple arguments for the “repatriation” of indigenous music, and the assertion of indigenous cultural rights, while troubling the imposition of legalistic frameworks of Western intellectual property. It situates the harms of appropriation in the perpetuation of unjust systems and misrepresentation, and demonstrates how careful attention to specific cultural practices can play an essential role in sorting out sometimes overly abstract debates about repatriation and appropriation.

Comment: This is a long and difficult text, but it does an excellent job of marrying careful attention to cases with philosophical context and reflection. It is a good choice for more advanced classes, particularly ones that might be focusing on music.

Hsi K'ang, and . Music Has Neither Grief Nor Joy

1983, In Philosophy and Argumentation in Third-Century China. Princeton: Princeton University Press

Summary: The controversial essay in which Xi Kang offered a distinct counterargument to the orthodox Confucian view that music contains and transfers emotions between musicians and listeners. Xi Kang crafts a series of arguments against the presence of emotions and images in music and contends that the widespread belief to the contrary leads to the misuse of music for political and moral agendas.

Comment: This text is best used in a course on aesthetics (especially philosophy of music) and/or Chinese philosophy. A basic understanding of Daoism is helpful.

Related reading:

  • Essay on Music. Ruan Ji. In Reed Andrew Criddle's "Rectifying Lasciviousness through Mystical Learning: An Exposition and Translation of Ruan Ji’s Essay on Music." Asian Music 38(2), 2007.

Peng Feng, and . Li Yu’s Theory of Drama: A Moderate Moralism

2016, Philosophy East and West 66(1): 73-91.

Abstract: This essay presents an interpretation of Li Yu’s theory of drama that takes it to be a moderate moralism that is different from Confucian radical moralism, Daoist radical autonomism, and the moderate autonomism of fiction. In addition to practical considerations, Li Yu’s moderate moralism of drama is based on his awareness of the ontological difference between drama and music, poetry, and fiction. Drama was seen by Li Yu as a synthetic art that includes music, poetry, and fiction. If radical autonomism is appropriate for the evaluation of music, radical moralism for poetry and prose, and moderate autonomism for fiction, then moderate moralism would be most appropriate in the evaluation of drama.

Comment: Peng gives an account of the development of Chinese drama according to a contrast between Confucian moralism, in which morality controls aesthetics, and Daoist autonomism, in which aesthetics are autonomous from morality. He argues for an understanding of Li Yu’s theory of drama as a moderate moralism that evaluates drama according to a possible, yet contingent and unnecessary relation between moral and aesthetic virtue. This text is appropriate for a course on aesthetics and/or Chinese philosophy. It is particularly useful in discussions of the relationship between ethics and aesthetics.