Conference presentation
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Technology's Attitude Toward The Chinese: Synthesizers, Music Software and Turntables in Contemporary Beijing

ContributorsZimmermann, Basileorcid
Presented atHarvard Project for Asian and International Relations, Shanghai, August 18-21, p. 19
Publication date2004

Many people think of technology and science as being super-cultural, not tied to any particular country or culture. Observations in the field of electronic music in Beijing show that Western technology carries, built into it, ideas that constrain the activity of its Chinese users. Everytime a Chinese musician plays or composes a piece, it is as if a virtual Westerner is collaborating with him. The French essayist Paul Virilio wrote that technology is about increasing speed and reducing distance, and worn us that these advances come at a price. Chinese musicians, through their use of Western technology, can play faster (do a gig after only a few months of practice with the built-in presets of a synthesizer, or just press the 'play' button of a turntable and they have music). The price to pay for this rapid innovation, however, is that the music is not clearly Chinese anymore. The only way to go faster with culture is to use other people's work. Since the invention of recording one can say that foreign musicians are 'performing' everyday in China. A similar relation can be observed with most Western technological objects in the PRC; a SMS written on a Motorola mobile phone uses Western punctuation marks, while the same content written on a Nokia will have Chinese punctuation marks; part of the content of the message is imposed by the producer of the technology.

  • Technology
  • Culture
  • Music
  • Chinese
  • Beijing
Citation (ISO format)
ZIMMERMANN, Basile. Technology’s Attitude Toward The Chinese: Synthesizers, Music Software and Turntables in Contemporary Beijing. In: Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations. Shanghai. 2004. 19 p.
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