Doctor of Musical Arts Dissertations


Reimagining the Story of Lu You and Tang Wan: Ge Gan-ru's Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! and Hard, Hard, Hard!

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)


Contemporary Music

First Advisor

Robert Satterlee

Second Advisor

Marilyn Shrude (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Thomas Rosenkranz (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Michael Arrigo (Committee Member)


In 2006, Ge Gan-ru wrote a melodrama Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! for Margaret Leng Tan. This melodrama, unlike any of his former works and any of the pre-existing contemporary repertoire for vocalizing pianist, is written for a performer self-accompanied by a toy orchestra. Wrong is based on ancient Chinese poet Lu You's Phoenix Hairpin. This twelfth-century poem has as its subject the poet's own tragic relationship with his cousin Tang Wan. The first stanza ends with the word cuo repeated three times, which is the Chinese word for "wrong," hence the title of the melodrama. The author's performance of Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! led to the commission of a sequel from Ge Gan-ru based on Tang Wan's reply to Lu You's poem. This companion piece, Hard, Hard, Hard!, uses a similar instrumentation: toy piano, toy harp, and toy glockenspiel, as well as other toys the author has collected.

The document first takes a close look at the story of Lu You and Tang Wan, including a thorough analysis of their poems Phoenix Hairpin. The next two chapters contain biographical information about the composer Ge Gan-ru and about Margaret Leng Tan, the intended performer of Wrong. These two individuals contributed most of the source material for the document. Chapter Four presents a brief history of melodrama. The final two chapters focus on Ge Gan-ru's two melodramas. Chapter Five deals with the collaborative process of Ge Gan-ru and Margaret Leng Tan in creating Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!, and discusses the problems the author faced as a subsequent performer. In Chapter Six the author describes the genesis of Hard, Hard, Hard! and shares her experiences collaborating with the composer.

These emotional melodramas challenge not only the listeners but also the performers themselves. By looking at the origins, inspirations, and the creative process of Wrong, Wrong, Wrong! and Hard, Hard, Hard!, this study aims to provide a cultural understanding of this unusual set of pieces by Ge Gan-ru and enhances both the listeners' and performers' experience in reimagining the unforgettable story of Lu You and Tang Wan.