Tan Dun’sThe Map Performed by NYU Symphony Orchestra

NYU Symphony Orchestra

By Xi Lu

The NYU Symphony Orchestra presented the performance of Tan Dun’s masterpiece, The Map, in a one-night only Concerto for String Orchestra and Pipa featuring pipa virtuoso Zhou Yi with special guests –Grammy-nominated conductor Andrew Cyr and leading classical cellist Wendy Sutter. The Map is created by the famous Chinese composer Tan Dun as a response to his 1999 tour of the Eastern part of Hunan Province in China. The interaction of audio-video captures passionate antiphonal singing, tongue singing, percussive dance and other images of ethnic musical life connected generations and cultures across years and over continents.

Tan Dun’s The Map consisted of the combination of Chinese music, chilling compositions, and stunning visual footage of rural China, which gives the audiences a window into an Oriental fantasy world oceans away. Tan Dun is a Chinese contemporary classical composer and conductor. He is widely known for his scores for the movies Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and Hero.

His works often use instruments constructed from organic materials, such as paper, water and stone. He is also known for blending all styles, rigorous search for simplicity, the expansion of his musical imagination. With a sense of the avant-garde, his music reveals to us the voice of the human soul.

pipa virtuoso Zhou Yi

The program starts by the performance of the virtuoso pipa musician Zhou Yi in collaboration with NYU string Orchestra featuring the violins group 1 and 2, violas group, celio group and bass. Her technique and movement of fingers really captivated many audiences. Her lightning technique in the allegro section made one think of a recording at fast-forward speed.

The Map continues with woodwinds flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoon to make a response with the video recorded on the screen. After a short intermission with the video recording, the program continued with Wendy Sutter’s great soloist performance in collaboration with the woodwinds group including flutes, oboes, clarinets and bassoons. As she played, the cello sang romantically full of emotions and the performance displayed a different level of cello.

The brass group comes later with the French horn, trumpets, trombones, tuba, harp and percussion instruments to make concordance with the video recording ethnic life music. Both the orchestra and Sutter were completely at home with the broad range of dynamics and techniques that Dun required. “Blowing Leaf,” a particularly stirring section, began with muted bells and clarinet. Solo cello mirrored the display of a man blowing across a leaf, creating a sharp chirping sound as a chorus of brass coo-cooed into their mouthpieces alone.

Other than listening to the beautiful voice that comes out of the video recording, many audiences were amazed by the interaction between the screen and the musicians. The way they moved their fingers to play vivid melodies, the eye contact between the musicians and the conductor, and more importantly is their stunning innovation on techniques of playing the instruments and the concept that Tan Dun is willing to give.

The musical piece was beautifully performed and definitely boosted up the night thanks to the distinguished Andrew Cyr, Grammy nominated conductor. The concert was both audibly and visually enjoyed by its audiences.

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