Clear skies above, I spent the evening enjoying another performance by the Taichung City Symphony Orchestra. Tonight, however, was special.
Conducting this evening, Tan Dun flew in from Mainland China to lead the Orchestra in two scores he has written.
The first was a real treat. Though it's been years since I've seen it, one of my all-time favorite movies is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Tan Dun is the composer of that entire score. The performance this evening began with excerpts from the movie score, while scene-appropriate clips played on the screen behind the orchestra. It was beautiful to listen to this movie come to life.
The entire score is highlighted by the presence of an Er-hu (two-string Chinese Violin). To much delight, the score was accompanied by an Er-hu soloist who captured the organics of the film and brought them to our out-door stage here in Taichung.
Concerto and Solo by the Er-hu stands this piece apart from a typical Hollywood Movie Score. By no means will you find Hans Zimmer gravitating towards this Traditional Chinese Instrument.
Tan Dun, however, revels in it. The remaining hour of the performance brought us to his piece entitled Maps. Pioneering the relationship of Traditional Orchestra, Technology and Alternative Sounds, Tan Dun blended recorded video of indiginous Chinese music with the live symphony.
Solo vocalists and traditional instruments - and unconventional ones, such as rock-percussion - flooded the screen while Tan Dun conducted his symphonic construction in and out and over the clips. Lacing the piece together, a German Cello Player carried the weight with authority and an eccentricity. The resulting sound could only be defined as foreign to Western Ears. Across the entire Orchestra, music was created in the most unconventional ways: strings were slapped rather than bowed; air was forced through french horn by hand rather than breath; rimshot-cadence; swirling symbols; a quick, harmonic shoot, completely in unison. Though at times chaotic and barely-tonal, the performance left all in awe.
The evening's end met Tan Dun and accompaniment with a Standing Ovation. This was certainly the best concert I have seen here in Taichung to date. Completely unique, and likely a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Here is a quick video from the performance. Just something I decided to snag at the very end.
Tan Dun - Maps from Chase on Vimeo.
I have some more Orchestra-related news... but I think I will wait until later. Want a hint? This post included ninjas, the next will see pirates.