Song of Piercing

May 3, 2010

A song is called a 插曲 (“pierce” and “song”, literally) if it is inserted in the middle (or sometimes the end credits) of a TV show or movie and is not considered the “theme music”. The character 插 is also used for “insert” (as in “insert a picture into this Word document”) or “interject” and “penetrate” (yes, even in a sexual context; especially in a sexual context). Then 插曲 basically means “a song shoved into something”.

The most famous 插曲 in American pop culture is probably As Time Goes By, which was played in the movie Casablanca. It was by no means the main musical number of the song; it was scene appropriate and was used somewhat as an interlude. But like many other 插曲 in Chinese entertainment (for example, 郊道, “country path”, a song that the main character of an old Chinese musical sang while walking down a country path to meet his girlfriend, the song that inspired this post) it became overwhelmingly popular relative to all other musical pieces from the movie.

Note: You may have noticed that the postings here have diminished over the last few weeks. If you want to know why you can take a look at my latest personal blog entry.

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