Academic Activities & Films

Frank Kouwenhoven and Antoinet Schimmelpenninck began studying the shan'ge (Chinese 'mountain song') cultures of southern Jiangsu in 1987. This resulted in Antoinet's PhD study, but also in numerous joint articles in journals like Intercultural Music Studies, Oideion, The World of Music, Cahiers de musiques traditionelles and in The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Their work on the mountain songs of Jiangnan continued until 1997. 

Their most important contribution to scholarship in the realm of Chinese music may well be a new perspective on the cultural scope and meaning of shan'ge, but they began to understand this genre more fully only after they started long-term research on hua'er and shaonian in the context of temple festivals in Gansu and Qinghai (fieldwork annually from 1997 to 2009). 

This resulted in major articles, in various book publications, as well as in a separate conference looking at musical courtship traditions worldwide (Amsterdam, 2005, of which the papers were collected in the book Music, Dance and the Art of Seduction, edited jointly by Frank Kouwenhoven and James Kippen (of Toronto University), and issued by the Dutch Eburon Press (Delft, 2012).

Frank Kouwenhoven wrote a series of articles on Chinese avant-garde music for journals like New Asia Review, China Information, World New Music Magazine, Muziek en Wetenschap, De Gids and CHIME. Partial translations into Chinese were published in Yinyue xueshu xinxi (1996-1997). These articles were based on extensive interviews with over one hundred Chinese composers, and were among the first academic publications on new Chinese music in the West. They constituted an enthusiastic plea for a new and potent generation of Chinese creative artists.

Further research projects focused on guqin music (articles in, amongst others, the British Journal of Ethnomusicology and in the book The Other Classical Musics by Michael Church) and on Chinese shadow theatre (further articles), which also resulted in a full-length documentary film, Chinese Shadows (2007), commercially issued by PAN in Leiden and well-received internationally in press reviews, and at ethnological film festivals and music conferences.

With Antoinet Schimmelpenninck, Kouwenhoven produced films on hua'er singing, Chinese shadow theatre and (in cooperation with the Hubei Provincial Museum, where the film is now shown daily), The Bells of Marquis Yi (2005), on the famous excavations of what is arguably the world's most unique set of bronze bells from antiquity.

Antoinet cooperated with Dutch filmmaker Eline Flipse on a film portrait of five avant-garde composers, Broken Silence (2004). Frank provided documentation for that film. He further organized a series of exhibitions: Imagine! Faces of Music in Contemporary China (on Chinese Music Photography, hosted by the Sinological Institute Leiden, 2005-2006), Chinese Shadow Theatre (Sinological Institute Leiden, 2007-2008) and an exhibition on Chinese puppetry (L'autre Monde; Théâtre d'Ombres et de Marionettes. Palais des Beaux-arts (BOZAR), Brussels, 2009).