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Xian Xing-hai

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Xian Xing-hai


Xian Xinghai or Sinn Sing Hoi (13 June 1905, Macau – 30 October 1945, Moscow) was a Chinese composer.

Xian Xinghai moved with his mother to Singapore when he was six years old, where he was enrolled in Yangzheng Primary School for his primary education. It was while at Yangzheng Primary School that he took his first step into his musical career. His teacher, Ou Jianfu, first noticed Xian Xinghai's musical talent, and he was enrolled into the school's military band. Sinn Sing Hoi received training in both musical instruments as well as music. He was later brought to Guangzhou for further education. Sinn Sing Hoi started learning the clarinet in 1918 at the YMCA charity school attached to the Lingnan University in Guangzhou (Canton). In 1924 he studied in Saint Andrew's School of Singapore. In 1926 he joined the National Music Institute at Peking University to study music, and in 1928 he entered National Shanghai Conservatory of Music to study violin and piano. The same year he published his well-known essay The Universal Music. In 1934 he was the first Chinese student admitted to the Paris Conservatory to study senior composition with both Vincent D'Indy and Paul Dukas. During this period he composed Wind, Song of a Wanderer, Violin Sonata in D Minor, and other works.

Sinn returned to China in 1935 to the Japanese occupation of the northeastern part of the country. Using his music as a weapon to protest the occupation, he took part in patriotic activities. During the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), he wrote vocal works that encouraged the people to fight the Japanese invaders. He worked for film studios before going to the Communist headquarters in Yan'an, where he became dean of the Music Department at Lu Xun Institute of Arts in 1938. It is at this time that he composed the famous Yellow River Cantata and the Production Cantata.

In 1940 Sinn went to the Soviet Union to compose the score of the documentary film Yan'an and the Eighth Route Army. Before departure Mao Zedong invited him to dinner. In 1941 the German invasion of the Soviet Union disrupted his work and he attempted to return to China by way of Xinjiang but the local anti-communist warlord, Sheng Shicai, blocked the way and he got stranded in Alma Ata, Kazakhstan. It was here that he composed the symphonies Liberation of the Nation and Sacred War. He developed pulmonary tuberculosis due to overwork and malnutrition. He died of pulmonary disease on October 30, 1945 in Moscow.

Sinn Sing Hoi composed over 300 works, and published 35 papers. His influence in Chinese music won him the title People's Composer.

The epic film The Star and The Sea (2009) is about the hard childhood and suffering of Sinn Sing Hoi in that period of his life and the efforts of his mother to help him developing his musical talents.

Works for Winds