Cinematic sounds

By Chen Jie ( China Daily ) Updated: 2016-09-22 08:18:30

Cinematic sounds

Musician Tan Dun pushes the boundaries of his creativity by making a movie. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Tan Dun is indeed iconic as a Chinese musician who's full of passion and imagination, who pioneers innovation to conjure contemporary audiences' fascination with classical music.

He uses unconventional materials-water, paper and wind-to create what he calls "organic music". He creates alongside musicians across myriad genres.

And now, he's making a movie.

Symphonic Poem on Three Notes is his animated film, starring the three notes La, Si and Do as three people who occupy a world in which five-line staves form streets and skyscrapers.

The plot centers on how people protect their homes when the environment has been destroyed.

It will show at a concert at the National Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday.

Tan will conduct the National Symphony of China to play the film's soundtrack live.

The first half will include animated films featuring great music.

The opening is English composer Benjamin Britten's orchestral suite The Sea. The 22-minute piece, which is also called a symphonic-tone poem, consists of four movements: Seascape, Sea Foam, Moonlight and Storm.

Tan commissioned Central Academy of Fine Arts students to create an animated film to Britten's music.

"I discussed with these young artists how to portray the sea on a summer morning, the rocks and pools on the shore, a calm sea at night and a rainstorm on the sea. Their final production really impressed me," Tan tells China Daily during a phone interview.

After Tan's movie Symphonic Poem on Three Notes, the first half will end with another movie featuring paper-cutting, created by Chinese artist Wu Jian'an. The soundtrack will be renowned Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu's viola concerto A String Around Autumn.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Takemitsu's passing. Tan says he chose his movie's music to commemorate the Japanese maestro.

"I listened to Takemitsu's music when I studied at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing in the early 1980s. After I went to New York, we became friends, and I learned much about modern music from him. He composed for many great Japanese movies. People usually know and remember the directors and actors but neglect the composer," says Tan.

"A movie could not be great without good music."

In addition to the viola concerto, audiences will experience three more pieces by Takemitsu in the second half. They are selected from the movies Black Rain, The Face of Another and Jose Torres.

The second half will consist of music for feature films, including Memories of A Geisha, Libertador, Night Banquet and Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, for which Tan won the Oscar for best music in 2001.

The concert will also include the theme song of Chinese director Feng Xiaogang's new film I'm not Madame Bovary, which will hit cinemas in November. Chinese composer Du Wei creates the score.

The Venezuelan movie Libertador (2013) tells the story of Simon Bolivar.

Celebrated Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel composed the music.

"Dudamel is known as a conductor, but actually many conductors are great composers, too," says Tan.

"I myself first was a composer but now also try to conduct ... Composers, such as Mahler, Britten and Bernstein, inspired me to take the baton."

The concert's purpose is to "invent a new way to appreciate classical music".

"Movies or visual art are good genres that help people who like traditional classical appreciate modern music, while helping people who like modern music, such as movie soundtracks, enjoy classical music," he explains.

"I believe the symphony could become a trendy force to lead society, to lead the wave of culture, like Beethoven and Mozart did hundreds of years ago."

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