School of Music
Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology (MA)
Primary Subject Area
Music; Language, Linguistics; Religion, General; Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies
Bai, China, Jianchuan, linguistic tone, Shibaoshan, spontaneous
Chinese Studies | East Asian Languages and Societies | Ethnomusicology | Linguistics | Music | Race and Ethnicity
Andrews, Lisa, "Just Sing What You Want to Say: The Importance of Linguistic Tone in Bai Songs" (2012). Masters Theses. 248.
The Bai people, a minority group in the People's Republic of China numbering at least 1.6 million, live mostly in the Dali Autonomous Prefecture in northwest Yunnan. Historically, Bai from the central region would gather annually at the base of Shibaoshan Mountain to sing partner style love songs in search for a suitable marriage partner; today, this time is marked by a three-day festival officially titled "Shibaoshan." The annual song competition invites skilled singers to spontaneously compose melodies in response to their counterpart, crafting lyrics to flatter or tease their singing partner. The study quantifies the close relationship between Bai linguistic tone heights and melodic pitches. Qualitative research uncovers whether this aspect of Bai songs guides singers' choices or methods in spontaneously composed songs. The closely matched relationship between linguistic tone and melodic pitches implies that new songs must retain this feature in order to be acceptable and perhaps intelligible to Bai hearers.