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Tan Dun

Decca signs the multi-award-winning composer of 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon'


Decca Classics has signed the multi award-winning composer and conductor Tan Dun.

Fresh from conducting the first UK performance of his epic work, the Buddha Passion, at London's Royal Festival Hall last month - a performance which was met with glowing reviews from the critics - Tan Dun is thrilled to begin this major new recording partnership with Decca.

Tan Dun says, 'Decca has always been a dream for me. As a young artist, I could never have imagined that one day we would embrace each other. I've worked with many recording labels over the years, but now, connecting with Decca, I understand. It is so pure and classical and, yet cool and fresh and open to all sorts of music and cultures, it is a very special place. I feel deeply honoured to be part of it.'

Tan Dun. Photo © 2003 Nana Watanabe
Tan Dun. Photo © 2003 Nana Watanabe

From planting rice during Mao's Cultural Revolution, despite years of discouragement, Tan Dun has earned a global reputation as 'a kind of rock star of the modern music scene.' (New York Times).

In the 1960s Tan Dun was a young boy running barefoot through the fields of remote Hunan in China, yet always aware of the sounds and traditions surrounding him. Today, based in New York, he is one of the world's most exciting composers. Having been catapulted into the mainstream by his Oscar, Bafta and Grammy-award winning score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the UNESCO Global Goodwill Ambassador has scored music for global events such as the reunification of Hong Kong with China, the world's celebration of the new millennium and the Beijing Olympics. He has also written music for some of the biggest names in music, such as Lang Lang, and for many of the world's leading orchestras, and was the first composer ever commissioned by Google/YouTube.

When the Cultural Revolution broke out in 1966, Tan Dun's parents were sent away and he stayed at home with his grandmother. He would go down to the river when she would wash the clothes and find it infinitely soothing. Today, the world-renowned composer frequently uses the sound of water as an instrument in his compositions. Ever curious about the connection between sound and the earth itself, Tan Dun also employs other organic materials as instruments, such as stones and paper.

Aged sixteen, Tan Dun was also sent to the country to work planting rice. On arrival he had to sign a statement saying that he would work in the rice fields for the rest of his life. One day a local Peking Opera troupe lost some members after a ferry disaster. They came to the village asking if anyone could play an instrument - Tan Dun had taught himself the violin so joined the travelling opera troupe. The Cultural Revolution came to an end after Chairman Mao's death in 1976 and it was announced that the music conservatories would open again for the first time in ten years. Having no money for the fare, Tan Dun smuggled himself onto a train to audition for Beijing's Central Conservatory of Music.

Since then Tan Dun's success has been meteoric.

On 3 March 2023 Decca releases Five Souls, which Tan Dun describes as a 'a journey from the universe to the metaverse where we discover our spirit, who we are and what we are meant to be'. The five movements for small ensemble include water percussion, harp, brass, strings and digeridoo.

Album covers for Tan Dun's 'Five Souls' and 'Buddha Passion'. © 2023 Decca Classics

The first major new album from Decca, to be released on 7 April 2023, will be the first recording of Tan Dun's Buddha Passion: a tale of wonder, of truth and of gentle but irresistible transformation. The monumental work, involving massed choirs, large orchestra, six percussionists and an array of soloists including indigenous singers, traditional Chinese instruments and a dancing pipa player, is the first such 'Passion' on a Buddhist rather than Christian narrative.

Another major first recording, The Tears of Nature, follows in September 2023. The twenty-five-minute percussion concerto was written in the wake of three major natural disasters - the Sichuan earthquake in 2008, the Japanese Tsunami in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy in 2012, all of which affected Tan Dun personally.

Co-Presidents of Decca Label Group, Tom Lewis and Laura Monks, say, 'We are so proud to welcome Tan Dun to Decca. He is a global statesman for classical music; arguably one of the most inventive, energetic and warm-hearted composers alive. His story is quite extraordinary. He embodies the sometimes unimaginable and unique way in which music can change your life.'

'I have two goals in my heart: I don't just want to establish a musical idea ... I want to develop a cross-cultural idea that brings nature and classical music, ancient and modern, together.' - Tan Dun

Posted 9 February 2023 by Victoria Bevan



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