Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for Bright Sheng

Dr. Bob Prescribes The Music of Bright Sheng

My Music History Monday post for November 29 focused on the composer Bright Sheng (born 1955), who made the unforgivable mistake of playing Laurence Olivier’s movie of Shakespeare’s Othello to an undergraduate class at the University of Michigan without first offering up a prophylactic explanation/apologia for Oliver’s makeup (the character of Othello being a dark-skinned North African Moor).  Bright Sheng was born 66 years ago yesterday, on December 6, 1955, in Shanghai, China.  He began taking piano lessons with his mother at the age of four and excelled.  That is, until May 16, 1966.  That’s when Mao Zedong (1893-1976) instituted the “Cultural Revolution” (which ran for ten long, painful years, from 1966-1976).   The Cultural Revolution was a wholesale purge and power grab, plain and simple.  Like Stalin’s purges in the 1930s, the Cultural Revolution did not target enemies of the state but rather, those people it considered potential enemies of the state: intellectuals; academes; students; professionals; military leaders; the educated, urban “elite”; those who passed for the Chinese middle class; and so forth.  Untold millions of high school, college, and post-college age “young people” were shipped off from the cities to the countryside, there to be “re-educated” and “to […]

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