Yellow Music

Media Culture and Colonial Modernity in the Chinese Jazz Age

Yellow Music

Book Pages: 224 Illustrations: 12 b&w illustrations Published: June 2001

Author: Andrew F. Jones

Asian Studies > East Asia, Music > Jazz, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Yellow Music is the first history of the emergence of Chinese popular music and urban media culture in early-twentieth-century China. Andrew F. Jones focuses on the affinities between "yellow” or “pornographic" music—as critics derisively referred to the "decadent" fusion of American jazz, Hollywood film music, and Chinese folk forms—and the anticolonial mass music that challenged its commercial and ideological dominance. Jones radically revises previous understandings of race, politics, popular culture, and technology in the making of modern Chinese culture.
The personal and professional histories of three musicians are central to Jones's discussions of shifting gender roles, class inequality, the politics of national salvation, and emerging media technologies: the American jazz musician Buck Clayton; Li Jinhui, the creator of "yellow music"; and leftist Nie Er, a former student of Li’s whose musical idiom grew out of virulent opposition to this Sinified jazz. As he analyzes global media cultures in the postcolonial world, Jones avoids the parochialism of media studies in the West. He teaches us to hear not only the American influence on Chinese popular music but the Chinese influence on American music as well; in so doing, he illuminates the ways in which both cultures were implicated in the unfolding of colonial modernity in the twentieth century.


Yellow Music is meticulously documented, and the author’s empirical arguments are well argued and supported.” — Paul Mori, International Examiner

“[A] marvelous study and by its very nature must be the definitive work.” — Lawrence Brazier, Jazz Now

“[An] essential and exciting study. . . . [I]t is truly refreshing to read a history of individuals and record players that reveals so much about the political climate and local culture of China.” — Hua Hsu , The Wire

“The book as a whole is well constructed, with the various sections carefully interrelated. The engaging introduction invokes the experiences of the American jazz musician Buck Clayton, who lived and worked in Shanghai from 1935 to 1937, to illustrate some of the interactions that took place between Chinese and Western musical cultures in the early 20th century. . . . [A] useful summary.” — Miriam Lang , The China Journal

“This interesting study takes a look at ‘jazz music and urban media culture in early 20th century China.’ It also examines how China and the United States have influenced each other musically. Jones’ historical exposé will give you an appreciation for music that you just might want to look up after putting down the book.” — Giant Robot

“This is a fascinating book, attractively written with a wealth of information on a complex subject. Jones is to be credited for managing to do this in just 130 pages, and without the jargon that often bedevils books on cultural studies.”

— John Clewly , Bangkok Post

"Yellow Music is one of the rare publications in the field of ethnomusicology whose cross-over appeal is immediately apparent. . . . This is an important addition to the literature on the period, bringing original research and fresh perspectives to the field." — Rachel Harris, The China Quarterly

"[A] stimulating cultural history and a succinct ethnography of Chinese popular music of the early twentieth century. Richly adorned with photographs of popular singers, record jackets and movie magazine covers of the period, it provides vivid illustrations of Chinese urban popular culture. . . . Yellow Music will remain indispensable for anyone studying Chinese popular music and cultural history of the twentieth century."
— Yu Siu Wah , China Review

"[A] very compelling argument. . . . Yellow Music is singular as a multifarious study of shidai qu and represents what may be the most up-to-date study of music, politics, and popular culture in Republican China. It is an excellent tool for teachers and students of Chinese music studies, and will appeal to scholars of anthropology, cinema studies, cultural studies, Asian studies, gender studies, nationalism, and transnational studies." — Dale Wilson , Current Musicology

"[E]legantly written and painstakingly researched, [Yellow Music] is a revelatory tale of the beginnings of mass-mediated Chinese popular culture. . . . Jones's skills in dealing with Chinese literature are displayed in the fluency and readability of the translated passages that pervade the book. . . . This book will become essential reading for specialists in Chinese music and for popular music scholars, and its ideas and conclusions should result in some reassessments of conventionalized notions of China's twentieth century music history and of the development of indigenous mediascapes in Asia and elsewhere." — J. Lawrence Witzleben , Asian Music

"Rich in data compilation and referencing, and theoretically up-to-date and inspiring, this book presents an insightful account of, and in-depth discussion on, the mass-media-associated urban popular music in China during a period of about three decades around the 1930s. . . . [A] vivid and interesting account. . . ."

— Yang Mu , Asian Studies Review

"This pioneering work on music history and media culture in China during the interwar years is theoretically engaging and ambitious . . . . This is a highly readable work that is empirically grounded and written with flair."
— Peter M. Beattie , American Historical Review

Yellow Music pushes commonsense presumptions forward by complicating theory with solid empirical study. Jones weaves rich information and intriguing conclusions throughout this historically grounded book.” — Miriam Silverberg, author of Changing Song: The Marxist Manifestos of Nakano Shigeharu

Yellow Music is a fantastic, one-of-a-kind read: a beautifully written, theoretically rich, and empirically grounded story about the relationship between American jazz music and the politics of colonialism and modernity in China during the interwar years. Andrew F. Jones puts the question of music at the center of debates about the role of the popular in the making of modern China.” — Ralph Litzinger, author of Other Chinas: The Yao and the Politics of National Belonging

“Jones illuminates Chinese cultural and political history from an unknown angle—that of popular music and an emergent transnational mass culture. In doing so, he not only enriches our understanding of this history but also makes an original contribution.” — Prasenjit Duara, author of Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China


Availability: In stock
Price: $25.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Andrew F. Jones is Assistant Professor of Chinese in the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Like a Knife: Ideology and Genre in Contemporary Chinese Popular Music.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Listening to Jazz Age China 1

1. The Orchestration of Chinese Musical Life 21

2. The Gramophone in China 53

3. The Yellow Music of Li Jinhui 73

4. Mass Music and the Politics of Phonographic Realism 105

Glossary 137

Notes 147

Bibliography 183

Index 207
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, 2002 Award in Best Research in Recorded Folk or Ethnic Music, Association for Recorded Sound Collections

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2694-6 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2685-4
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