The Harpsichord in China:
Journey of a Temple Artist and Scholar
—Lewis Gordon, College of Liberal Arts
Associate Professor of Keyboard Studies,
Boyer College of Music & Dance
Joyce Lindorff (Boyer College of Music and Dance) came to Temple by way of Hong Kong. This would not be unusual but for her having been a long-time resident of New York City. Her global journey included performing in unconventional venues and finding a rabbi in Hong Kong for her daughter’s bat-mitzvah.
Her story also illustrates some of what President Anne Weaver Hart may have in mind in her aspirations for Temple’s international programs.
A musician with expertise on the harpsichord and other keyboards, Lindorff is Associate Professor of Keyboard Studies at the Boyer College of Music and Dance. She earned her undergraduate degree at Sarah Lawrence College and a masters in harpsichord at the University of Southern California. She then worked during the 1980s for the North Carolina Arts Council, which enabled her to perform this classical instrument in such unusual places as coffeehouses for mentally disabled adults and a beauty school (which paid her with a haircut).
After those years in North Carolina, Lindorff then studied at Juilliard, where she earned her doctorate, and then performed with many ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic. She taught harpsichord and music theory as a Mellon postdoctoral fellow and visiting assistant professor at Cornell University, where she discovered her love for teaching.
Teaching the China Conservatory
Lindorff’s academic experience became international when her husband Dave received a Fulbright to teach journalism in China. She secured a visiting post teaching harpsichord at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
The family moved to Shanghai with their seven-year old daughter Ariel (now a Temple alumna and math teacher), who ended up learning Mandarin like a native. The couple fell in love with China and worked there for six years.
Living in China during those years posed some challenges for a Jewish American family. They became part of a congregation that saw the creation of the Hong Kong Jewish Community Center , which served both orthodox and reform communities. Given their small number, the reform community had previously met in various places where they formed Minyanim (quorums for public Jewish worship).
Through most of the 1990s the Lindorff family managed to remain in China and Hong Kong, where the couple adopted their son Jed, now a freshman visual arts major at Philadelphia’s High School of the Creative and Performing Arts.. Joyce received a Fulbright to teach at the Xi’an Conservatory of Music in 1994.
Lindorff was in high demand as the only harpsichordist during her years in Hong Kong. She became an artist-in-residence with the classical radio station and broadcast frequently, including live concerts. She discovered that there was much interest in the study of early keyboards.
A harpsichord lesson with
Michael Tsalka, DMA, Temple
The Lindorffs left China in 1997 when Joyce came to Temple to teach Keyboard Literature, Baroque and Classical Performance Practice, Improvisation, Chamber Music and Performance on the harpsichord, clavichord, fortepiano and chamber organ.
Lindorff gained more than cultural experience from her time in China. She still visits and performs there regularly and now researches the history of the harpsichord and cultural exchange there. Matteo Ricci (the first Jesuit Missionary to China) had brought a harpsichord as a gift in the early seventeenth century. Over the next two centuries, interest grew in western culture in China, especially astronomy, mathematics, diplomacy, and music. Catholic missionary scientists and musicians worked within the courts of the late Ming and early Qing dynasties.
In her research, which began the moment she landed in China, Professor Lindorff has also uncovered much about the composer Teodorico Pedrini, who worked for the Emperor Kangxi in the early eighteenth century. It took six years of effort for Lindorff to get permission from the Beijing National Library to examine Pedrini’s sonata manuscripts, which she is about to publish in a special edition. She and a British collaborator, Dr. Peter Allsop, recently researched the archives on Pedrini in Rome, unearthing more than 1500 documents and letters.
Pedrini, Lindorff and Allsop discovered, was central in the rights controversy raging in Rome regarding the Jesuit policy of accommodation. The Jesuits respected ancestral worship in China, but Pope Clement XI objected to this policy. The Lazarist Pedrini was apparently a fundamentalist fighting with the Jesuits. The conflict led to his imprisonment and torture. Lindorff’s initial investigation into the history of the harpsichord led to this story of intercultural controversies and the fascinating roles of each historical figure.
Outside Taiwan National Concert Hall
Lindorff reflects, “Having lived in China, in several cities of that vast country, and later having spent time as a Fulbright Scholar in Taiwan, I am struck by how important it is to learn as much as possible from each other—by speaking the language, making friends, and experiencing foods and other dimensions of cultures different from our own. When I returned home I realized that international education through culture and learning from each other is what I value most, and what gives me hope for the future of international relations.”
Lindorff loves the US Fulbright Program, and she is delighted that President Hart has placed Temple’s international programs among her priorities. “That’s the way to go,” affirms Lindorff, “people living with each other, learning from each other, and teaching each other’s students.”
More recently, she performed concertos in Taiwan while President Hart was in Taipei last November. She noticed that Hart’s visit was much talked about in the Taiwanese press. “I was so proud. Temple was in the news. My colleagues in Taiwan were so thrilled with these new opportunities for exchange. The more we can collaborate internationally, the better.”