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"Two Old Postcards from Formosa" Re-imagining Traditional Folk Tunes for the Modern World

Yun-Hsin Tseng, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


The concept of incorporating traditional folk tunes is not uncommon in modern compositions. Taiwanese composer Ming-Hsiu Yen composed a two-movement piano set Two Old Postcards from Formosa (2007), with each movement based on a traditional Taiwanese folk tune. This piece is one of the few piano works inspired by Taiwanese folk music that is intended for concert performance, since most Taiwanese folk-inspired pieces were written for pedagogical purposes. Instead of direct quotation of folk materials, Two Old Postcards from Formosa exhibits a refined craftsmanship in its treatments of the folk tunes. This work showcases traditional Taiwanese music to the world through a variety of Western-influenced compositional techniques, thus enriching the cultural diversity of classical piano repertoire. This document focuses on examining Yen’s compositional approaches to creating an original and imaginative piece through the reworking and expansion of preexisting musical materials. The accomplishment of this piece is not merely heightened by technical means; the profound musicality incites the compelling emotional journey behind the folk tune’s narrative, particularly in the “Crying Bird” movement, which poignantly retells Taiwan’s colonial history. As a Taiwanese composer trained in the Western musical tradition, Yen skillfully synthesizes Western compositional approaches and her Taiwanese roots to create a cosmopolitan platform that allows these Taiwanese folk songs to reach a broader audience around the world.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Tseng, Yun-Hsin, ""Two Old Postcards from Formosa" Re-imagining Traditional Folk Tunes for the Modern World" (2015). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3716170.