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Zhao Xiao-sheng is one of the most respected living Chinese composers, whose innovative compositions hold a place of prominence in contemporary Chinese music. Zhao, a pianist himself, naturally has written a number of works for solo piano which can be divided into three major compositional periods. During the 1970’s, he concentrated mostly on arranging the works of other composers. In the 1980’s, Zhao began to explore the combination of contemporary Western idioms with more traditional Chinese music. Since the 1990’s, he has focused his activities on creating a new kind of Chinese musical expression—a sort of Chinese-style serialism called the Tai Chi (or Taiji) System of Composition. Over the course of Zhao Xiao-sheng’s compositional lifetime, his life experiences and his education have led him to this more personalized compositional style. The Tai Chi System of Composition represents the full maturity of the composer’s creative thinking and the solo piano works are excellent examples of his compositional output under this system. This document will examine Zhao’s innovative fusion of Chinese and Western musical influences in his solo piano works from the Tai Chi system and its place within the future of world music.
Advisor: Mark Clinton