WorldView Episode 18: Tan Dun

     Episode eighteen of WorldView features Tan Dun, a Chinese-born American composer who has become a leading figure in contemporary classical composition. Known for writing film scores to major motion pictures such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Dun has drawn influence from audiovisual experiences, Chinese theatrical performance, and modern Western classical music. 

     Dun was born in 1957 in Hunan, China. Raised during the Cultural Revolution, Dun was discouraged from pursuing music and began working as a rice planter at a farm near his home. However, he soon met a group of like-minded musicians and learned to play several Chinese string instruments. Only a few years later, Dun started studying at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. He met several influential composers during his time at the Conservatory—including George Crumb (America), Hans Werner Henze (Germany), and Toru Takemitsu (Japan)—many of whom shaped his musical style for decades to come. By 1986, Dun was living in  New York and composing while earning his doctorate degree at Columbia University. 

     In addition to composing symphonic, chamber, and solo works, Dun has orchestrated five operas and written film scores for movies such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Fallen (1998), and Hero (2002). He has also explored the use of organic materials in his instruments, writing a concerto for water-based percussion and creating new sounds and themes using paper and stone. This episode of WorldView features “Orchestral Theatre 1: O”, written in 1990. Part of a series Dun refers to as “music rituals”, the work mixes traditional Eastern musical strategies with Western orchestration. Rather than portraying a specific story or theme, “Orchestral Theatre 1: O” seeks to invoke a series of emotions and images. It is performed by Tan Dun and the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra. 

WorldView Episode Eighteen Playlist:

Alexander SCRIABIN, “Ten Mazurkas, Op. 3”, {Beatrice Long (pf)} – Naxos

Tan DUN, “Orchestral Theatre”, {Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, Tan Dun} – Naxos

Ruth CRAWFORD, “Home Thoughts”, {Jan Dagaetani (sop), Gilbert Kalish (pf)} – Elektra Nonesuch

     WorldView is a classical music radio show featuring composers from everywhere in the world – except Western Europe. Tune in to hear works by lesser-known artists such as Gabriela Montero  and Bright Sheng, and widen your knowledge of classical music. Hinke Younger hosts each week’s episode of WorldView on Mondays at 9AM and again at 6PM on

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