Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
A blend of east and west of the greatest creativity--and imp
Christopher Culver | 07/14/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"THE MAP is a DVD of a 2003 "multimedia event in rural China" organized by Chinese composer Tan Dun to present his East-meets-West work "The Map" to the simple peasants whose traditions inspired him. The piece is performed here by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra with Anssi Karttunen on cello, and conducted by Tan Dun himself.
In 1981, Tan Dun briefly returned to his home region of Hunan and met there a man who made compelling music with simple stones. Eighteen years later he was comissioned by Boston Symphony Orchestra to write a new piece for that ensemble and the cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Thinking that he could find a place for the "stone man" in this work, Tan Dun went back to Hunan to record local musical traditions with his video camera. He discovered that sadly the stone man had died in the interim, but Tan Dun found a great musical richness in the area. Concerned that these other traditions would die out like the stone man's music, the composer decided to immortalize them by writing a work that would feature the video recordings of this music within the context of a Western symphony piece.
The work is in eight movements, each featuring a different aspect of the region's traditional music. The opening "Nuo (Ghost Dance and Cry-Singing" begins mournful and slow on strings, before the cello enters and establishes itself as the foundation of the work. As video of a dancing shaman is played, the strings begin repetitive motions with accompaniment on cymbals, and the cello occasionally cooperates with this dance and elsewhere breaks free. In the second half, the mournful tone returns as footage of "cry-singing", a stylised form of crying by old women over the forced marriage of their daughters, is presented. The second movement "Blowing Leaf" is inspired by the courtship ritual of Tujia men and women blowing through primitive flutes made of leaves. It ends with a dialogue between cello and violin mimicking this ceremony. Movement three "Daliuzi (Cymbal Colouring)" features two men who each play two cymbals, creating a variety of sounds with different angles. Seeing these men inspired Tan Dun to have the string players strike their instruments at unusual angles. "Miao Suona (Pipe)" is the shortest movement, centred around footage of a man playing the suona, a Miao instrument similar to a Turkish bagpipe. The following fifth movement "Feige (Antiphonal Songs)", is the crux of the work. Beginning with a spotlight on the harp, the movement proceeds to introduce a Miao girl whose singing of traditional love songs was one of Tan Dun's greatest inspirations for the piece. Her voice is ethereal like nothing you'll hear outside of Voix Bulgares, and will remain with the listener long after work comes to an end. The following "Interlude (Mapping the Portrait)" contains frenetic screeching on high strings while a text explaining the work's origin scrolls by on the video screen. It ends with something of a march meant to herald the return of the stone man's music, presented in the second-to-last movement by Tan Dun on the video screen and by a group in the orchestra. With the strange sonorities of these stones, sometimes ghostly, sometimes comic, it is easy to see why Tan Dun was so excited by the idea, and once the cello comes back in, the music is among the most compelling of the entire work. The eighth movement "Tongue Singing" brings the work to a close, featuring video of three Dong girls with a peculiar vocal techique--when Tan Dun first saw this in his visit to Hunan, he felt like he "got an electric shock"--and then a man playing the lusheng, a bamboo reed instrument of the Dong people that is something like a miniature organ. The lusheng piece is then rendered anew by the entire orchestra, and Tan Dun's modern genre reaches at last a full synthesis with the Chinese tradition.
We are fortunate that this performance in China has Anssi Karttunen, one of the greatest cellists of contemporary repetoire (he was a member of the seminal Finnish ensemble "Toimii"). The performance is impeccable, and it seems like the instrumentalists enjoyed their job immensely. The DVD includes a documentary "Rediscovering the Map", in which Tan Dun explains the genesis of the work and how he brought it to rural China. It includes footage of his trip back to Hunan, the premiere of the work in Boston, scenes from the rehearsals for the China performance, and some comical moments from the preparation of the stage in this simple rural place.
"The Map" is the finest work I have seen yet from Tan Dun, and the concept behind the piece is phenomenal. This is a fascinating and moving combination of Eastern traditions, the Western symphony orchestra, and avant-garde exploration that doesn't seem like the world-music crossover gimmickry that has plagued classical-music marketing for the last couple of decades."
Tan Dun's "Map" Leads to Treasure
E. L. Cohen | Los Angeles | 12/22/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I am a rookie when it comes to the music of Tan Dun. I bought the DVD of "The Map" simply because it looked interesting. Wow! The mix of Chinese and European influences is wonderful. The piece is exciting to watch and to hear -- it sounds quite original. I have listened to samples of his previous work, and this new piece seems better (although, admittedly, this is a poor way to judge). It is filmed exquisitely. I highly recommend it. My only question is, where is the CD?"
Another side of Chinese culture
A. Lee | New York | 01/21/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"While there are over 50 ethnic groups residing in China, one shall not simply focus on the Han culture. "The Map" is an interesting multi-media work featuring solo cello, full-scale orchestra and videotaped performances of local musicians in the province of Hunan (which is also the birthplace of Tan Dun). If you are interested in exploring some original, unaltered Chinese cultures, you may find this DVD appealing. Don't forget to watch the interview with Tan Dun!! :)"
Most amazing cello concerto I've ever seen
Michael Pesek | Czech Republic | 05/09/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was completely amazed by this. Nice combination of folklor music and Tan Dun's music. Perfect camera work. Beuatifully recorded. It includes good document of making The Map, again nice. Don't hesitate a just buy it. You won't regret it."