My creative autobiographical PhD
Song & Dance of a Cancer Survivor
for multi-venue performance and as a basis for new versions
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Scores for “Song & Dance of a Cancer Survivor”:
Click "Thesis in PDF format" and go to Chapter 5 (PDF file from p.229, i.e., thesis p.213).
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For John David Morley's (English writer and novelist) response and critical comments on my creative autobiographical PhD, see J D Morley to Me pages.
Teaser excerpts at end of Introduction New addition
INTRODUCTION TO MY THESIS
I have lived most of my life in the UK. Providence decreed that I am married to Western Classical music, but as a small child in Hong Kong, my first love was Cantonese opera that reached the lower classes, including those shunned by society – the poor, the illiterate, beggars, prostitutes, gangsters… bringing them enjoyment and culture, and I lived among these people as a child. Dante used his memory of his first love Beatrice as creative inspiration. I also use my memory of this first love as creative and staging inspiration while the art form is facing possible demise.
I wanted to write a PhD in storytelling style that can be enjoyed by the general public. University regulations demand inclusion of research and academic writing. However, the creative core Song & Dance of a 3-Time Cancer Survivor, a humorous story in 12 acts is not in academic English (e.g. its title), and I kept to storytelling throughout my thesis as much as possible.
The Cantonese opera that I remember was at its most cross-cultural and multimedia – anything goes for survival. The basis of 'big drama' (i.e., Cantonese opera) was a Quben 曲本 (pronounced chuben: u as German ü; en as in happen) – quasi libretto cum script that was also the basis for new versions. The music was a selection of existing tunes that performers had freedom to modify. A lead performer had a say in all performance aspects of his/her troupe. Performance could be unrehearsed, with ad-lib and changes on the spur of the moment. Many performers had a talent to interact with the audience, stepping in and out of the drama in live performance.
I therefore supplied a Quben in 12 acts with original music that can be played as written but with room for expansion, and production ideas based on my expertise… a reservoir of materials allowing free use and modification by others. I especially hope that creative performers and people who do not have the opportunity to receive professional training would make use of my PhD. The humorous Song & Dance is a good read on its own. My thesis is also a narrative of things disappearing that are not well documented, and my encounter with well-known people and those who were less respected in society.
This project helped me understand why I instinctively write music in a certain way, my venturing into electro-acoustic music, my proclivity for cross-cultural combined arts, and directing and designing my projects. My ultimate aim is to realize the Quben as an Internet opera.
A BEGGAR BOY
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
OPERATION BLIND DATE
Surgeon (smile benignly):
Anaesthetist: (with gestures like a magician)
Nurse: (with anxiety)
Heroine: (mumbling, worried)
Surgeon: (rushes in, cocksure of himself)
Heroin’s final speech:
THE LIVING TRADITION