Tan Dun is a highly regarded Chinese classical composer who studied at the Beijing Conservatory. He has a good understanding of the Western symphony orchestra, and also of traditional Chinese music and instruments. In 1997 he was commissioned to compose a symphonic work for the handover of Hong Kong back to China, resulting in the work "Heaven, Earth, Mankind". His film music career began quietly enough with one or two soundtracks for the film industries in both China and Hollywood, but then it took a giant leap with the box-office success of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" for which he won an oscar in the "best original music score" category and shared a nomination for co-writing the film's love song "A Love before Time". The soundtrack features Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist, playing some wonderfully evocative solos.
Dun has now scored the soundtrack to "The Hero", a martial arts film which has been compared to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". The film stars Jet Li and is shown with English subtitles. The soundtrack features the Kodo Drummers of Japan, some choral music and solo string playing this time from the violinist Itzhak Perlman. The drummers (and to some extent the unison choral tracks) convey the discipline involved in martial arts training and practice, and the percussive nature of these sections certainly sits nicely with the idea of speed and movement. Balancing these actions tracks are others which are aligned to the spiritual side of the film. The central love theme is very similar to that in "Crouching Tiger". More information on "Hero" is listed below in the Recommendations section.
2008 was a busy year for Tan Dun. His music was used on the film for the Chinese Olympic Bid, and during the games themselves his music accompanied the logo introducing each event, and also at all the award ceremonies when the winning althletes were presented with their medals. In October he conducted the London Symphony Orchestra in an exclusive performance for YouTube of a new work which he composed for the online event. You can watch and listen to the "Symphony" at this location on YouTube and the work was used for another significant online event, the "YouTube Symphony Orchestra". This project invited amateur and professional players from across the world to audition online, with the winning videos being used to put together a combined "Cyberperformance". This was followed by auditions to select musicians for a live performance which was held in the Carnegie Hall in April 2009. The Symphony has references to the "Eroica" which is Beethoven's 3rd Symphony. More information about this and subsequent projects can be found at www.youtube.com/symphony (for UK participants), www.youtube.com/symphony (for US participants), and similarly for other YouTube sites across the world.
Summer 2011 sees the release of "The Martial Arts Trilogy" with highlights from Tan Dun's three celebrated martial arts scores - Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Banquet and Hero. Naturally the compilation also features the three famous soloists who worked with Dun on the soundtracks: Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Lang Lang (piano) and Itzhak Perlman (violin). The album ties in with Dun's "Martial Arts Trilogy Tour" which starts in San Diego, with other US cities including Washington, New York and Los Angeles. The Tour then goes to 8 major cities in China, followed by Tokyo and concludes at the Singapore Festival in December. Some European dates for the Tour have also been announced and we recommend a visit to the composer's official website for more details about the events: www.TanDunOnline.com.