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Tuning in to Beijing's charms

Composer reveals how the sights and sounds of the capital's Central Axis inspired a new piece, Chen Nan reports.

By Chen Nan | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2024-04-09 08:11
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Tan leads rehearsals with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra for the concert celebrating Beijing's cultural heritage. [Photo by JIANG DONG/CHINA DAILY]

In the piece, Tan employed two bianzhong (chime bells) of different sizes, placed on either side of the stage. Hung on wooden frames and struck by mallets, the bells opened the piece, like an echo of the past.

"I am always impressed by Tan Dun's musical language and his imagination. This time, he let the pipa and the brass quartet talk musically, portraying ancient Beijing," says Zhao, veteran pipa player, who is also the president of the China National Traditional Orchestra.

Zhao got up at 4 am on Saturday to go to Jingshan Park along with Tan and the musicians of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra. Located in the center of Beijing and facing the north gate of the Forbidden City, Jingshan Park used to be one of the capital's ancient imperial gardens. They climbed up the hill and arrived at the Wanchun Pavilion, which sits on the highest point of Beijing's Central Axis, where they had a great view overlooking the Forbidden City.

"Tan Dun's music is a reflection of his Chinese upbringing and his Western education. In his music, the audience hear him using Western instruments to create all types of sounds," says Li Changjun, president of the Beijing Symphony Orchestra. "We have plans to take this concert to other Chinese cities and abroad, in the hope that more people get to know about the city through Tan Dun's musical portrayal."

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