Made in Hong Kong: Technology and Cantopop Creativity in the 2000s

  • YANG, Helan H L (PI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


Cantopop is a local music genre with lyrics in Cantonese, the dialect of Hong Kong, an ex-colony of the UK, and now a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China. A major part of Hong Kong’s soundscape, Cantopop creativity – its production and consumption – like pop music elsewhere, has been and still is intricately connected to technology. Recent changes in music’s storage format, production method, and transmission channels have a profound impact on musicians’ creativity. In light of these technological developments, this study raises the following questions:
1) How did technological development impact on the local music industry and the patterns of music production and consumption?
2) How did music technology impact on local musicians’ creative practices in the past two decades?
3) How do technological changes in music production impact on music’s capacity to embrace socio-political issues?

Treating Cantopop creativity as a space that entails human and non-human actors, namely singers, song composers, arrangers, producers, sound engineers, investors as well as technological devices (such as MacBooks, electronic keyboards, and Digital Audio Workstations), this study will investigate how different creative actors interact as well as impact on the products they produce. A mix of musicological and ethnographic methods is adopted, entailing music and contextual analyses, in-depth interviews with creative actors, and participant observations by the researchers. A selected number of songs are chosen as representative works of the era to lead into the study of technological impacts, namely the composer making the demo, the arranger providing arrangement, the singer performing the song, the producer overseeing the vocalist rendition, and the recording/sound engineer enhancing the final product. The different data sets collected from the various creative actors will then by studied, analysed, and triangulated so as to address the above research questions.

Arguably a ground-breaking study in both scope and methodology, this is the first endeavour to examine Cantopop from a practice-based perspective, exploring its creativity’s connection to technology by both an insider and outsider, the musicologist PI collaborating with the practitioner CoI. Affording good insights into the research topic, this study strikes a balance between unravelling local practices in music making and edifying theories in music production and technology globally. All in all, this is an immersive project with an insider of the pop music industry to authenticate and validate the subject matter chosen. The data collected will be analyzed, interpreted, and triangulated to reflect on creative practices in the music industry.
Effective start/end date1/01/2030/06/22


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