chapter  10
14 Pages

Living colours: An Asian-Pacific conceptual frame for composition


The raucous barrage of metal sounds of The Drunken Emperor Orders to Have His Brother Executed as performed by the Paichangxi Repertoires of Cantonese Opera jolted me alive. Hearing this riotous interpretation in Hong Kong’s Ko Shan Theatre resonated with an earlier experience of Japanese calligraphy I had witnessed some years earlier in Tokyo that struck me as similarly spirited.1 Miyata Ryohei’s vigorous calligraphical strokes demonstrated how character is embodied in the creative actions of calligraphy. These two aesthetic experiences made palpable for me a duality that resides in all creative actions and their resulting artefacts. This duality may be suggested by the concepts of the unspoken mind of the artist and of the moving spirit. On one hand, the unspoken mind has historical bases in the Greek idea of the ‘unspoken word’2 or the Chinese idea of the ‘mind of the artist’.3 And on the other hand, the moving spirit has bases in the Judeo-Christian idea of the ‘living word’ (or spirit)4 or in Chinese thought the dao ‘which moves amongst things’.5 This creative duality is refracted through and resident in the artist and gives rise to both ‘irreducible individuality’6 of the creative work and its embodiment of the cultural identities of the artist. Not a simple fixed binary, this duality generates works of a complex hybridity involving both the ‘spirit-led’ and the identity formations of the artist.7