A Chinese composer born August 18, 1957 in Changsha (China).
Initiated into traditional Chinese stringed instruments, Tan Dun plays the viol and writes arrangements for Peking Opera. He studied at Peking Conservatory then in the USA, at Columbia University, where he discovered the minimalist and post-minimalist composers.
In between tradition and innovation, Tan Dun builds bridges between East and West, using Western instruments with modes of play evoking the Far East, or blending traditional Asiatic instruments and Western instruments. He develops music that is organic, that explores new areas of sound through elements such as paper, water, ceramics and stone, notably in his percussion concertos: Water concerto, first performed by Christopher Lamb and the New York Philharmonic conducted by Kurt Masur (1998); Paper concerto, first performed by David Cossin, Haruka Fujii, Colin Currie and the Los Angeles Philharmonic on the occasion of the opening of the Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles (2003); The tears of nature, first performed by Martin Grubinger and the NDR Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer (2012).
Tan Dun has written orchestral theatre pieces (Orchestral theatre I to IV, 1990-1999), and composed operas such as Marco Polo (commissioned by the Edinburgh International Festival, first performed at the Munich Biennial in 1996), Tea, a mirror of soul (commissioned by the Suntory Hall,Tokyo, and first performed by the NHK Symphony Orchestra, 2002) and The first Emperor (commissioned and first performed by Metropolitan Opera, 2006). This theatricality associated with his taste for transversality has led to the creation of various multimedia works: The map for cello, video and orchestra, premiered by YoYo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (2002); Nu Shu, The secret songs of women for video, solo harp and orchestra, first performed by Risako Hayakawa and the NHK Symphony Orchestra (2013); Passacaglia: Secret of wind and birds, interactive work for mobile phones and orchestra first performed by the National Youth Orchestra of the United States (2015).
Tan Dun is also a conductor. He has conducted the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestre National de France, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Münchner Philharmoniker, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra…
Also in demand as a composer of film music, Tan Dun won an Oscar for the music of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000). In 2017 he was awarded a ‘Golden Lion’ for his career as a whole at the Venice Biennial.