ill. I.1 (set: I.1)
1975 / 1976
internet file, colour; original source: photograph, colour, print on paper, calendar
DACHS 2009 Propaganda Posters, Maopost.com (edited by Pierre-Loic Lavigne and Pierre Budestschu), Heidelberg catalogue entry
calendar girl, Guqin, Chinese zither, music, musical intrument, traditional Chinese music
Get rid of what is stale and bring out the new (Tui chen chu xin 推陈出新)
“Get rid of what is stale and bring out the new” (推陈出新) is the title of a calendar produced in 1975. Before a pale blue background, a girl, dressed in a pink sweater, plays the guqin, an age-old seven-stringed Chinese zither (ill. I.1). Another calender from 1975 shows a much younger girl who holds, quite lovingly, a small violin, in itself a foreign instrument to China until the late 19th century: the title of this calendar is “Little Performer” 小演员 (ill. I.2). The images illustrate that by the second half of the Cultural Revolution (and actually throughout) there were restrictions of the repertoire one could be playing, but the playing of foreign and of traditional Chinese instruments actually never stopped completely. Remembers one contemporary: “Actually, at that time, there were no restrictions as to the playing of either particular instruments or pieces. All the etudes which we played came from the West. We just played everything.” (Artist 1959-).
Music, just like all other artistic production, was subject to extreme political reglementation during this period; that only certain correct colors, forms, and sounds were officially acceptable: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91), Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and Johannes Brahms (1833–97) were condemned due to their “bourgeois” background or upbringing; Arnold Schönberg (1874–1951) and Claude Debussy (1862–1918) were considered “formalists”; Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873–1943) were said to be (pre-) representatives of the “revisionist” Soviet regime and thus could not be performed; sounds of the guqin were unacceptable, as they were associated with the “aristocratic” literati of “feudal” China; and traditional Chinese operas were said to bring too many “emperors and ladies,” and too few “workers, peasants, and soldiers” onto the stage. And this list could be continued.
Yet, obviously from these calendar girls, the practice both of traditional and of foreign instrumental traditions not only came back by the 1970s when due to ping-pong diplomacy many foreign orchestras came to perform in China and China was proud to show its very own traditions, but it was in fact not entirely disrupted by the Cultural Revolution.