• 09 January, 2021

Beiguan, literally "the northern pipes", is a style of music that once functioned as the soundtrack to all sorts of events in Taiwan, from celebrations of births and marriages, to funerals, temple festivals, gods' birthdays, and theatrical performances. But Beiguan is also a way of life, with performers tied to their tightly-knit troupes, subject to stringent taboos and codes of conduct. At one point, they were even prepared to clash with members of rival troupes if need be. Whole towns gather around their local Beiguan troupes, chipping in money to help them buy the best uniforms and the fanciest cloth banners for temple processions. And even today, as the genre's connections with births, weddings, and funerals fades, it remains the sound of Taiwanese folk religion, raucous, lively, and, unlike some more elitist genres of Taiwanese music, open to all. Professor Jian Hsiu-Jen of Taipei National University of the Arts is behind one recent effort to get Beiguan Music back into the public eye, an ongoing exhibit at the National Center for Traditional Arts in Yilan County. She joins us today for a look at the art form at the fun ways the exhibit aims to make the old form of Beiguan accessible for a contemporary audience.