Chinese-born American composer Tan Dun (born 1957) reached a world-wide audience with his score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which won him an Academy Award in 2001. Although he is principally a composer in the Western tradition (or “traditions”, as he is interested in classical, jazz, rock and pop music), Tan also draws upon the musical traditions of his native China, including Chinese opera and folk music. The theme of “East meets West” is played out on a number of levels in his opera Marco Polo, which was premièred at the Bavarian State Opera in 1996 and staged the following year at New York City Opera. This theme is examined further in a series of works entitled Orchestral Theatre which, in addition to Western orchestral instruments, include Chinese instruments such as the xun, bianzhong and pipa. Tan is interested generally in unusual sound sources including basins filled with water (Water Passion after St Matthew and Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra) and instruments made out of paper (Paper Concerto for Paper Percussion and Orchestra). Tan’s career in China has been chequered. His music was blacklisted for a time in the early 1980s but it is now looked upon with favour. Indeed, he composed music in an official capacity for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

© Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra