At the Central Conservatory of Music last week, dozens of artists spoke passionately about the struggle for creativity in China amid the cacophony of money-making, Communist Party politics and cultural traditions that discourage individuality. “What is real music?” asked Shaosheng Lee, a student of composition and piano, speaking at “A Cross Boundary Forum on the New Music of China,” a three-day event tied to the Beijing Modern Music Festival. “It’s music that contains your way of thinking,” he said. Then came the crucial proviso: “Your true way of thinking.”
Liu Sola, a composer, cult novelist and a main organizer of the cross-disciplinary forum, said: “We are educated to serve the people, and the masses. So it can be hard to find your own self.” “But today no one is forcing you to pursue the mainstream,” she said. “You can explore your own space.” Ma Licheng, a writer, said: “The biggest problem is that we need to discover our true selves, what is true and authentic, and not the false, the merely taught.”
“Far too many people here have no personal opinions at all,” he said. “They say what they are told to think.” Other established artists advised members of the emerging generation to search for their “true” selves and not merely follow the formulas offered by the academies. They exhorted them to examine the fundamentals of life like sexuality and language and to rediscover China’s own cultural legacy, which many feel has been neglected in the pursuit of Western standards.