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Tan Dun to Use Athletes' Sounds in Beijing Olympics Production

By Kevin Shihoten
22 Oct 2007

Tan Dun
photo by Nana Watanabe

Composer Tan Dun has announced that he will incorporate the sounds of Chinese professional athletes' movements in a rock music production he is preparing for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, reports the Xinhua news agency.

Speaking at the China Shanghai International Arts Festival, Tan said he will use the "sounds of water splashes by diver Guo Jingjing, ball hits by basketball player Yao Ming and race-starting of hurdler Liu Xiang" as one the musical planners involved in the opening ceremony, award-granting ceremony and a theme song for the Olympics.

"I can sense musical tempos in their movements," said Tan. "They are natural sounds embodying sports passion, which are quite touching. I can see colors and hear music in the rhythm of their movement."

The composer of the score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has been employing so-called "organic music" made by water, wind, ceramics and paper - for nearly two decades. Among such works is the Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra in Memory of Toru Takemitsu (1999), in which the solo percussionist's instruments are placed within two hemispherical, transparent basins of water.

"The musicality of the sounds of water never cease[s]," Tan told Xinhua. "This is sound from the nature [sic], which could create different pictures in different hearts." His Nine Songs (1989), a "non-narrative, even surreal" music-dance which takes from the poetry (in both English and classical Chinese) of Qu Yuan, is also one of several to use original Chinese ceramic instruments.

In his Paper Concerto for Paper Percussion and Orchestra (2003), percussionists manipulate papers, cardboards, boxes, paper bags and paper umbrellas on the stage.

"Ordinary paper objects from daily life can create sounds of longing and suffering as well as loving," said Tan.

An American of Chinese birth, Tan emerged in the early 1980's as the leading composer of the "New Wave", a group of artists, writers and composers that began thriving in China's atmosphere of cultural pluralism. Tan has consequently been at the center of controversy; the Chinese goverment labeled his music as "spiritual pollution" in 1983. In 1986, he moved to New York City and completed his doctoral studies at Columbia University under the guidance of Chou Wen-chung, Mario Davidovsky and George Edwards.





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