River Elegy (河殇) is a six-part documentary broadcast on China’s largest TV station CCTV1, in 1988. River Elegy is a landmark documentary, a more innocent naive Chinese viewpoint that emerged as the country opened up. China and its civilisation has existed around the Pearl and Yellow rivers for 1000s of years, rather like the Rhine and the Elba in Germany.
China had started to open up to the world after the cultural revolution and intellectuals started to learn about how different the west was. River Elegy compares the old ways and Chinese gains in civilisation over thousands of years, with the modern world. In retrospect the River Elegy attacks on traditional culture and Confucianism mirror the rejection of tradition in the cultural revolution. The River Elegy series spurred debate and was seen to be criticism of what the creators perceived to be a slow-moving communist party.
At the time, intellectuals in China were avidly reading the works of western thinkers like John Naisbitt and Alvin Toffler who provided a vision of a rollercoaster centrist techno-utopian future. I get the attraction to young intellectuals. In the 1980s, the future looked bright and technocratic.
The thing that I find most interesting about it is the use of music, imagery and editing is almost psychedelic in its effect. It must have been mind blowing for the audience who tuned into it.
A couple of people involved in the production of River Elegy whore about how it was created in Deathsong of the River – which is a great read. It is interesting to reflect how far this series is from the China of today. It overs an interesting contrast to Xi Thought in both content and presentation style.
China and the World
From a retro futuristic vision of China in River Elegy to the current day: China and the World: Recalibration and Realignment – YouTube. I put this on the background, its almost three hours long but very informative.
Tian Jinqin – electronic instrument pioneer
1980 Video of Tian Jinqin, “Originator of Chinese Electronic Music” | RADII China – China was slower on the uptake electronic music because of the cultural revolution. Tian Jinqin developed some interesting instruments based on traditional Chinese instruments as well as keyboards.
NeXT logo presentation, by Paul Rand, for Steve Jobs | Logo Design Love – Steve Jobs on Paul Rand. The interesting thing for me is how Jobs talks through the brief in an interview. It was the model for client agency relationships with a high level of trust.
Maestro – BOILER ROOM – great documentary about DJ/producer Larry Levan and the Paradise Garage. Levan is one of the people who shaped the modern dance sound. The film does a really good job of setting up the context from disco to house and goes on about other New York clubs like The Loft and The Gallery. It has a great soundtrack and some of the interviewees are fierce.