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East Asia Program’s “Bringing East Asia to the SU Classroom Series”

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“Brahms in Hong Kong Film: Nostalgia, Politics, and the Post-Colonial Identity in 'Infernal Affairs II'”

The East Asia Program’s “Bringing East Asia to the SU Classroom Series” featuring Joanna Chang, visiting assistant professor, Department of Music, College of New Jersey.

Following the success of "Infernal Affairs" (2002), directors Alan Mak and Andrew Lau set the narrative of their prequel, "Infernal Affairs II" (2003), in Hong Kong of the 1990s, a decade fraught with apprehension as the island’s fate of 156 years under British colonial rule swept into the hands of Chinese sovereignty on July 1, 1997. The historical backdrop was a bold and significant addition to the police thriller, as over a third of a million city-dwellers had migrated abroad.

This talk examines the soundtrack of "Infernal Affairs II" with its rare inclusion and interplay of Brahms’s Third Symphony, Chinese Opera and Indian classical instruments. The selection of Western and global musical traditions sensitively reflects and narrates conflicting tensions of identity and loss in pre-1997 Hong Kong.

Filmmakers paired Brahms with protagonists, such that the symphonic scoring suggests nostalgia for a former era of prosperity, security, and stability. Contrastingly, diegetic and nondiegetic strains of Chinese Opera and Indian music coincide with the antagonists, calling forth questions in their audiovisual associations. The unprecedented role Brahms plays at the crossroads of an East-meets-West culture invites reflection of nostalgia in Hong Kong’s postcolonial identity. 


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Exterior of Maxwell in black and white when there was no Eggers building

We’re Turning 100!

To mark our centennial in the fall of 2024, the Maxwell School will hold special events and engagement opportunities to celebrate the many ways—across disciplines and borders—our community ever strives to, as the Oath says, “transmit this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

Throughout the year leading up to the centennial, engagement opportunities will be held for our diverse, highly accomplished community that now boasts more than 38,500 alumni across the globe.