Rulan Chao Pian (卞趙如蘭, 1922–2013), an American-Chinese ethnomusicologist, studied Western music history and theory at Radcliffe College, Cambridge, MA (B.A., 1944; M.A., 1946) and at Harvard University (Ph.D., 1960). His father Yuen Ren Chao (趙元任, 1892–1982), who was a linguist and composer, had taught at Tsing Hua University, Harvard University, and University of California, Berkeley, among others. He collaborated with Yang Lien Sheng to compile the Concise Dictionary of Spoken Chinese (Harvard, 1947). The influence of her father could not be neglected. At Harvard, not only did Pian offer music courses including topics on Chinese music, but she also taught Chinese language courses. She developed her own pedagogical method and prepared a lot of lecture notes on both fields.
Pian was interested in musical notation and its association with transcription, analysis, performance practice, and the social contexts of music. She was the first to study oral and performance literature from the perspective of musicology. Her dissertation Sonq Dynasty Musical Sources and Their Interpretation, which was published as a monograph (Harvard, 1967; Chinese University Press, 2003 reprinted), was awarded the Carolyn I. Wilby Prize by Harvard and the Otto Kinkeldey Award for “excellence of a musicological book” by the American Musicological Society. Although her publications focus mainly on Chinese traditional music, including music in Song dynasty, Peking operas, modes in Chinese music, and music at Confucian sacrificial ceremony, her research extends to Gagaku in Japan, P’ansori in Korea, Morris Dance tunes in Boston, and Chinese imitations of Michael Jackson’s hits. Some of her students, namely Bell Yung, Joseph S.C. Lam, and Yu Siu Wah, are now renowned ethnomusicologists.