Date of Award

Fall 12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Elizabeth Moak

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Joseph Brumbeloe

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Michael Bunchman

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Ellen Elder

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Dr. Edward Hafer

Committee Member 5 School



The increasing recognition of the Chinese composer Zhang Zhao (张朝) in recent years, owing to the prominence of his piano pieces in major music competitions and concerts in China, has sparked curiosity about the unique musical elements present in his compositions. Upon initial exposure to his piano works, subtle echoes of minority ethnic music were evident to the author, though the specific ethnic origin remained elusive. However, recent readings of interviews and articles revealed without any elaboration that at least six of his piano compositions incorporate musical elements from the Yi ethnic groups.

This dissertation focuses on three works by Zhang Zhao (b. 1964) and aims to uncover the characteristics of Yi ethnic music while exploring how Zhang artfully incorporates such traditional elements into these piano compositions. The three Zhang works studied are: Piano Suite No. 2, “In Pursuit of a Vanishing Sound”; Two Folk Songs; and Piano Suite No. 3,Luo Zuo and Folk Song.” The dissertation is organized into three parts. Firstly, it introduces the music culture of the Yi ethnic group, providing insights into their traditional music. Secondly, it presents a concise background of the renowned Chinese composer Zhang Zhao and his piano works. The third part delves into Zhang Zhao's incorporation of Yi traditional music elements into his piano compositions, focusing on melody, rhythm, and instrumental imitation.

By investigating the extensive use of folk elements in Zhang’s works, this research offers pianists a better understanding of his music, enabling them to express his style more authentically in performances. Moreover, as the Yi are a minority group in China, their culture has lacked attention. This research thus also provides an added window for others to know about these important peoples, their rich and colorful music, as well as some of their traditions.



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