Samson Young will present a lecture-performance that centres on the concept of echoic mimicry from social psychology. Adopting artist Paul Carter’s understanding of it for cases of cross-cultural encounter, Young examines the concept with a case study of the genealogy of the ubiquitous Mo Li Hua [Jasmine Flower] song. The version we now understand to be synonymous with Chinese culture actually most closely resembles the version transcribed by English statesman John Barrow while on the first British embassy to China. Barrow’s tune and accompanying travelogue exploded in popularity across Europe, and eventually made it back to its “native” land before being reabsorbed into Chinese identity. With other cases of such encounters, including Kenny G’s influence on Hong Kong pop music and centuries-unchanged Japanese Togaku now used as one of few extant sources of Tang dynasty court music, Young considers what it means to hear with the ears of an Other, and questions notions of cultural purity and authenticity at large.
*Sponsored by the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism and the Department of Sound