Li Delun in Philadelphia: Ethnography, Archives, and Music across the Pacific
- Shelley Zhang
- Department of Music, School of Arts & Sciences
Shelley Zhang is organizing a public symposium, pop-up photo exhibit, and recital to be held in the Kislak Center for Special Collections on April 2nd, 2022. This one-day, tri-partite event will highlight the contributions of Chinese conductor, Li Delun, and foster interdisciplinary conversations between scholars, filmmakers, creative writers, and musicians while also addressing misconceptions of Chinese artistic practice. The event will demonstrate the historic collaborations between Chinese and American musicians, address misconceptions of Chinese artistic practice, and explore the collaborations that can occur today using ethnographic practices, archival methods, and performance.
In 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra became the first American orchestra to tour the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since the nation was established in 1949. This historic tour occurred during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76), a time of political tumult and harsh censorship, including of Western classical music. The orchestral tour began in Beijing, in collaboration with the Central Philharmonic’s conductor, Li Delun. The University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center holds a set of photographs of Li with the Philadelphia Orchestra that, until recently, were unknown to his family, were rarely studied, and had misspelled his name. Consequently, he was unlocatable by scholarly search tools, as were many of his colleagues in the photographs who were not yet named. Working with staff in Kislak and the Li Delun Foundation, Shelley has corrected the misspellings and is helping to identify more Chinese musicians over the course of the year. The pop-up exhibit will occur in Lea Library of the Kislak Center and will showcase the original photographs.