Other publications

This is the main page for a sub-menu that mainly contains some significant articles on aspects of Gaoluo village, as well as a survey of Shaanbei-ology.

After an interlude when my three Ashgate volumes (the first two being part of the fine SOAS Musicology series) suffered a prohibitive price-hike, they are now reissued by Taylor & Francis/Routledge in affordable paperback editions. You can order them here (under “Books”!)
The two Ritual and music books are all the more worth snapping up for their accompanying DVDs—the first makes useful background for my film on Li Manshan.

This is my sixth book, and, gosh, my fourth film. They build on my previous work, notably:

  • 2004 Plucking the Winds: lives of village musicians in old and new China, Leiden: CHIME Foundation (with CD). You can order it here.

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As ethnographies go, it’s a Good Read, though I say it myself. Reviews can be complimentary, but this, from Vincent Goossaert, is music to my ears:

One rarely laughs when reading sinological books, but this one made me more than once look silly when uproariously laughing on the subway.

Cf. Groucho:

From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.

and, less hilariously,

  • 2010/2017 In search of the folk Daoists of north China, Aldershot: Ashgate

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Two more books from Ashgate both come with DVDs:

  • 2007/2017 Ritual and music of north China: shawm bands in ShanxiScreen Shot 2016-11-02 at 12.02.28.png


  • 2009/2017 Ritual and music of north China, volume 2: Shaanbei.Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 12.05.17.png

Since I sometimes seem preoccupied with social history, it’s worth mentioning this lengthy musical analysis of the searing repertoire of the Hua family shawm band, protagonists of my 2007 book—from the same county as the Li family Daoists:

  • “Living early composition: an appreciation of Chinese shawm melody”, in Simon Mills (ed.), Analysing East Asian Music: patterns of rhythm and melody, Musiké vol.4 (Semar, 2010), pp.25–112,

all the more since it complements an amazing CD, like wild Ming-dynasty gypsy bebop:

Walking Shrill CD

Some of this analysis appears in another detailed post comparing one of their suites with a qin piece. Here are some brief excerpts from their London gig in 2005:

My first book remains a useful survey, hinting at themes I would develop later:

1995 Folk Music of China: living instrumental traditions, Oxford: Clarendon Press (paperback edition with CD, 1998).

The accompanying CD is edited down from my 2-CD set

  • China: folk instrumental traditions, AIMP (Geneva), VDE-GALLO (1995), with booklet.


For another important series of archive recordings, see here.

Also relevant to some of the themes on this blog are my articles

  • “Source and stream: early music and living traditions in China”, Early Music August 1996, pp.375–88.


  • “Reading between the lines: reflections on the massive Anthology of folk music of the Chinese peoples”, Ethnomusicology 47.3 (2003), pp.287–337.
    Chinese version: “Zili hangjian du jicheng: ping hongwei juance Zhongguo minzu minjian yinyue jicheng”, Zhongguo yinyuexue 2003/3, pp.103–28.

For my Amazon author’s page, click here.

Further to the playlist in the sidebar on this blog, I wrote this outline, with discography, for The Rough Guide to world music: Europe, Asia and Pacific:

  • “China: Han traditional—a well-kept secret”,

which is followed by

  • Rachel Harris, “China: minorities—sounds of the frontiers”.

* * *

FWIW, perhaps this is a suitable place to summarize the progression of my work on China:

Having studied sources on Tang music under Laurence Picken at Cambridge (see also here), as soon as I arrived in China for the first time in 1986 and heard the former monks of Beijing (“discovered” by Yang Yinliu in 1953), I transferred my attention from early history to fieldwork on living traditions, resulting in my first book Folk music of China, a general survey of Han Chinese instrumental genres.

In the first fifteen years after the Communist revolution of 1949, Chinese scholars had done remarkable work documenting both historical sources and living traditions of vocal and instrumental music, led by the great Yang Yinliu (1899–1984), director of the Music Research Institute (MRI) in Beijing. Upon the liberalisations that followed the end of the Cultural Revolution, local Chinese scholars throughout China renewed their fieldwork to compile the vast Anthology of folk music of the Chinese peoples.

Working closely with colleagues from the MRI, my fieldwork soon focused on local rural traditions of life-cycle and calendrical rituals. Through the 1990s we made a major survey of amateur ritual associations in villages just south of Beijing (closely related to the Beijing temple style), and I wrote a detailed diachronic study of Gaoluo village (Plucking the Winds, with CD), based on regular stays there from 1989 to 2003.

All the while our subject was expanding from reified “music” to the ethnography of changing ritual practice in local communities and documenting the vicissitudes of people’s lives—before, during, and since the decades of Maoism.

After a substantial interlude studying shawm bands (Ritual and music of north China—two volumes, both with DVDs), I devoted myself again to hereditary occupational groups of household Daoists around north China, focusing on their provision of funerary services for local communities—with my latest film and book on the Li family Daoists in north Shanxi covering not only the ritual soundscape and ritual manuals, but the whole changing social context. After first meeting the great Li Qing as he led rituals in 1991, from 2005 I began taking the group (now led by his son Li Manshan) on tour, and stayed with them frequently from 2011 as they performed rituals around their home base.

In my main fieldsites, my studies also involved a modest amount of participant observation. And all this time I continued playing violin in London early-music orchestras, the topic of many posts collected here. In posts like Bach—and Daoist ritual I wear both hats.