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Tan Dun

Chinese composer and conductor Tan Dun was born on 18 August 1957 in Changsha, Hunan.

Discouraged from pursuing music, he worked as a rice planter on the Huangjin commune, but joined an ensemble of commune residents and learned to play traditional Chinese string instruments. When several members of a Peking opera troupe died in a ferry accident, Tan Dun was called to help as a viola player and arranger. This earned him a seat in the orchestra, and he then, from 1977, studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, where he met various composers including George Crumb, Alexander Goehr, Hans Werner Henze, Toru Takemitsu, Chou Wen-Chung and Isang Yun, who all influenced his development as a composer. By 1986 he was in New York City, researching for a doctorate at Columbia University.

Known most widely for his film scores, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, his music often makes use of audiovisual elements, uses instruments constructed from organic materials such as paper, water and stone, and is inspired by traditional Chinese theatrical and ritual performances. He became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2013.

A selection of M&V articles about Tan Dun

CD Spotlight. Scintillating Performances - Asian music for string quartet impresses Howard Smith. '... an exemplary, highly recommendable release.'

Ensemble. Splendid Ideas - Stravinsky's 'Le Rossignol' impresses Giuseppe Pennisi

Ensemble. Unusual and Different - Tan Dun's 'The Banquet', reviewed by Giuseppe Pennisi

CD Spotlight. Insistent Patterns - Music by Yuanlin Chen, recommended by Ron Bierman. '... marvelous textures ...'

Ensemble. Much to Contemplate - New ideas at Santa Fe Opera, reviewed by Maria Nockin

Ensemble. Opera at the Movies - Maria Nockin experiences Tan Dun's 'The First Emperor'

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