Tan Dun


Tan Dun
b. 1957, Simao village, Hunan
Composer, conductor
One of the most internationally famous of contemporary Chinese composers, Tan Dun has received the Grawemeyer and Grammy Awards, and an Oscar for his film score to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000, see China Philharmonic Orchestra). He has resided in New York City since 1986.
When Tan graduated from the first post-Cultural Revolution composition class of Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, he had already received national attention as one of the leading ‘New Wave’ composers, along with fellow classmates Qu Xiaosong, Guo Wenjing and Chen Qigang (see Third Generation /composers). In 1986, at the invitation of Chou Wen-chung, Tan enrolled at Columbia University for postgraduate studies. Almost as soon as he arrived in New York, he was active in the downtown music scene, with performances at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre. His subsequent success as composer and conductor included commissions and conducting engagements with the world’s best-known orchestras, including the Boston Symphony and the BBG Symphony. He has also served as artistic director for new music festivals worldwide.
Tan’s compositional output to date might appear stylistically disparate, but his search for the core of global musical and artistic experience, and his eagerness to challenge the concert-going convention reveal a composer dedicated to looking beyond the boundaries of avant-garde, folk, popular and classical music styles. Early works such as On Taoism (1985) and Nine Songs (1989) already incorporated spiritual elements and non-traditional orchestral sounds. His Orchestral Theatre series began to involve audience, multi-media and video images. The fourth of the series, The Gate (1999), tells the story of three women in a Rashomon-style narrative. Tan has written three other operas, Marco Polo (1995), Peony Pavilion (1998) and Tea (2002), in addition to film scores and Water Passion after St Matthew (2000), a commission by the Bach Academy on the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Bach’s death. The Map (2003) uses video recordings of ethnic minority music-making that Tan recorded on a return trip to his native Hunan province. The video excerpts are played in conjunction with the orchestra and cello soloist, in dialogue or as concurrent musical commentary to each other, revolutionizing the concert convention.
Kouwenhoven, Frank (1991/2). ‘Composer Tan Dun: The Ritual Fire Dancer of China’s New Music’. China Information 7.1:17–39.
Putten, Bas van (1996). ‘Tan Dun’s Marco Polo: A Multi-cultural Journey’. Chime 9 (Autumn): 57–62.
Utz, Christian (1998). “‘Extreme Cross-Over, Extremely Personal Music”—Interview with Tan Dun’. Chime 12/13 (Spring/Autumn): 142–50.
http://www.shirmir.com/composers/Tan_works.html
http://www.tandun.com/
JOANNA C.LEE

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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