January 22: Dr. Giorgio Biancorosso

For the second colloquium of the semester, held on January 22, 2019 (Tuesday), we are very pleased to welcome Dr. Giorgio Biancorosso, who will give a talk on the topic Wong Kar Wai’s Soundtracks or The Filmmaker as Music Bricoleur.

The talk will start at 4:00 pm in M6094 Future Cinema Studio.

Date: January 22, 2019 (Tuesday)

Time: 4:00 pm

Venue: M6094 Future Cinema Studio, Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, 18 Tat Hong Avenue, Kowloon Tong

Topic: Wong Kar Wai’s Soundtracks or The Filmmaker as Music Bricoleur


Composition, we are taught, is the creation from scratch of new sound structures. Yet since time immemorial musicians have repurposed already-existing music into their own work. This practice, referred to as borrowing, blurs the line between composition and performance and forces us to rethink the nature of musical creativity: Is it singular or diffused, individual or communal? Recording, tape and now digital technologies have added new dimensions to musical borrowing. By making it easier to encounter, store and play back vast amounts of repertoire, they have enabled countless people—including non-musicians—to mix and match musics from the most disparate sources. After anthropologist Lévi-Strauss, I call this mode of composition ‘musical bricolage’ and argue that filmmakers are among its most consummate masters. To bear this out, I examine the musical nexus at the heart of Wong Kar Wai’s cinema. Directing films is for Wong a way of channelling creatively the habit of chancing upon, collecting and listening to music in the commercial and artistic entrepôt of Hong Kong. Wong’s use of already-existing music is shaped by the circumstances of his films’ production and reception, his celebrated ‘musical ear’ as well as penchant for ‘poaching’ music from other films (ranging from old Chinese melodramas to European art films). There emerges is a unique modus operandi through which music loses its previous associations and acquires a new and sometimes surprising identity. Far from being instances of citation, homage or allusion, Wong’s musical borrowings are expedient and transformative. The soundtracks to his films chart his transformation from music lover and end-user into bona fide composer or better re-composer of the very repertoires he explores—the filmmaker as music bricoleur.


Giorgio Biancorosso (PhD, Princeton, 2001) is the author, most recently, of Situated Listening: The Sound of Absorption in Classical Cinema(Oxford University Press, 2016) and “The Phantom of the Operaand the Performance of Cinema (Opera Quarterly, 34:2-3, 2018). His work on the history and theory of listening practices reflects a long-standing interest in musical aesthetics, film music, and the history of global cinema. Before moving to The University of Hong Kong, where he is now Associate Professor in Music and Director of the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, in 2001-2003 he was a Post-Doctoral Fellow at Columbia University’s Society of Fellows in the Humanitiesand a Visiting Assistant Professor in Music also at Columbia in 2003-04. Aside from film music, film criticism, and musical aesthetics, his interests include musical dramaturgy and the psychology of music. Biancorosso is also active in Hong Kong as a programmer and curator. He is the Chairman of the Hong Kong New Music Ensembleand a member of the Programme Committee of the Hong Kong Arts Festival. In recognition of his work, HKU awarded him the Outstanding Young Researcher Award in 2009 and the Research Output Prize (Arts) in 2016/17.


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