Tan Dun to Write Score for New Zhang Yimou Film

Oscar-winning composer/conductor Tan Dun had a busy week in Beijing during his recent visit.

Tan attended the Three Tenors Concert on June 23, acted the next day in director Zhang Yimou's Beijing 2008 Olympic Bid film, for which he also wrote the music score, and then visited the Beijing Olympic Games Bid Committee on June 26.

During his visit, Tan also revealed some plans for the coming years, including some collaboration with film director Zhang Yimou.

Invited by the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Committee and Beijing Longevity Digital Entertainment Co, Ltd, Tan arrived at Beijing on June 23, "International Olympic Day," to show his support for the bid efforts.

The musician, who currently lives in New York City, was chosen by the Beijing Olympic Games Bid committee as the key music composer for Beijing's 2008 Olympic Games Bid promotion films early this year, according to producer Hu Bo with the Film Production Department of the Bid Committee.

"Beijing Olympic Games Bid Committee has done an excellent publicity job. Because wherever I held my concerts, I found people there talking about the Chinese capital's 2008 Olympic Games bid campaign," Tan revealed at a press conference with film director Zhang Yimou.

And of course, people still talk about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the kungfu romance blockbuster directed by Ang Lee from Taiwan, for which Tan won an Oscar award for the original music score early this year.

"Tan contributed greatly to this unique, influential film which helps greatly spread Chinese culture among people all over the world," Zhang Yimou said.

Tan also revealed that he will write the score for Zhang's new historical action film, The Heroes, after they finish the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games Bid Film project.

"I am very pleased to have the opportunity to cooperate with such an ingenious film director who also made Turandot and Raise the Red Lantern on stage with a strong artistic flavor of his own. Although this is the first collaboration between us, we have been good friends for many years," Tan said.

To make time for his collaboration with Zhang, Tan dropped a couple of other potential projects which also appeared attractive to him.

"I believe our cooperation will work out very well. We have so much in common such as early life experiences and the understanding of Chinese culture and film music. We know exactly what we can do together," Tan stressed.

Tan has previously cooperated with several film directors from the Chinese mainland, including Wu Ziniu and Chen Kaige.

The film The Heroes is expected to begin shooting in July in Jiuzhaigou in southwest China's Sichuan Province. In August the crew will move to the deserts near Dunhuang Grottoes in northwest China's Gansu Province.

Actors linked with the film include world-known Chinese film stars such as Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Jet Li (also known as Li Lianjie) and Zhang Ziyi.

After a nine years of absence from Beijing's stage, Tan announced last week that he would also conduct his "Crouching Tiger Concerto," with the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra this October during the Beijing International Music Festival.

The concerto is by no means an imitation of the film of the same title, nor is it simply an ordinary concert seasoned with a music video of film scenes, Tan claimed. "Rather, it will be a meticulously designed, multi-media show which I hope will both appeal to your senses and your soul and can withstand the test of time," Tan explained.

For this concerto, it is said that director Ang Lee has made a six-part 55-minute long re-cut of his movie, added unused shots, new shots of urban scenes and some computerized special effects.

During the Beijing International Music Festival, Tan will also stage his "Water Concerto" which features fantastic and even eerie sounds of water, created by special "music instruments" - all sorts of installations filled with water.

Tan said the concerto will have a test performance this July in Hong Kong and will then be revised and improved from time to time before its Beijing debut.

"You may think you have been very much familiar with water and the sound of water in your daily life. But by listening to my 'water music,' you will realize that you missed too much and have known little about the character of water," Tan said.

"What comes out next in my music is unpredictable to the listeners. The music may sound interesting and funny at one moment but sad and torturous at another. My concert will be a whole new experience for Beijing audiences."

In Tan's eyes, the words such as "classic," "tradition," "modern" and "vanguard" seem not to make much sense.

"A composer must tell the means from the end," he said. "Whenever I am going to write my music, I will concentrate my mind on exploiting to the utmost the potential of any music element, device and technique I find available, no matter whether they are traditional or vanguard, Chinese or Western, mainstream or alternative."

In an era of convergence and fusion, a musician should write with an open mind and he should never refuse to adopt any new ways to best express himself, said Tan, who has distinguished himself as an artisan of hybridity.

During a June 25 lecture to a group of young music fans at the Golden Sail Concert Hall in downtown Beijing, Tan encouraged students to "break up the rules" and to play out music they can do but have never tried before.

"Let's have some fun together, everybody! How about the idea of mixing Jazz music with Cantonese music?"

With such words, Tan kicked off the lecture, a scene which will also appear in the Olympic Bid film.

Tan talked about the so-called "Crouching Tiger phenomenon" and its impact during an exclusive interview with China Daily and Guangzhou-based Southern Weekend.

The success of film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has aroused interest about the East, especially Chinese culture, among Western audiences.

"But it's only the first lesson for them," said Tan. There is still much work to do in promoting the knowledge and understanding of China, Chinese culture and Chinese people, he said.

Tan is eager to see more and more works of art coming out of the hands of Chinese artists and conquering the hearts of global audiences. "As a Chinese-born musician, I am always willing to cooperate with any outstanding and ambitious Chinese artist to promote Chinese culture. I will surely get my part done best in this mission," Tan said.

(China Daily 07/02/2001)

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