Having been a colony of multiple countries, Taiwan has a unique mixture of cultures on this small island formerly called Formosa. With the influences of Spain, the Netherlands, China, and Japan, Taiwanese music has developed significantly for over four hundred years. Multiple political wars in Taiwan destroyed not only the traditions of culture, but also developments in music. Luckily, with the rise of national awareness, Taiwanese people started to value their own culture and make efforts to retain Taiwanese traditions; it also inspired Taiwanese composers like Chih-Yuan Kuo (b. 1921) to make music of their own.
Chih-Yuan Kuo, a native of Taiwan, is one of the most important composers in the music history of Taiwan. His music covers many musical genres including symphonies, operas, piano solo pieces, choral works, art songs and chamber music. As a modern nationalistic composer of Taiwan, the signature style of his music is a blend of traditional Taiwanese folk music and modern compositional techniques. Kuo’s music adopted a significant amount of traditional Taiwanese folk music such as Nan-Kwan (“South Tone”) and Bei-Kwan (“North Tone”) music. In addition, his music shows strong influences of western nationalistic composers like Béla Bartók, impressionistic composers like Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, and Neo-classical composers like Igor Stravinsky. During Kuo’s studies in Japan, he became familiar with modern nationalistic Japanese composers such as Fumio Hayasaka (早阪文雄), Meirou Sugahara (菅原明朗), and Wen-Ye Jiang (江文也). With the mixture of influences from the other countries and his deep root in Taiwanese tradition, Chih-Yuan Kuo has created a unique compositional style of his own and has inspired the next generation of Taiwanese composers.
This treatise presents the music of Chih-Yuan Kuo with emphasis on selected chamber works with piano. In addition to a brief introduction to the political background and music history of Taiwan, the research will also include a biography of the composer and stylistic analyses of five selected works. A number of musical examples will demonstrate the stylistic characteristics of Chih-Yuan Kuo’s chamber works.