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Sound of the Forbidden City project showcases China's rich musical heritage

By Chen Nan | | Updated: 2024-04-10 10:13
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The sound material collection for the music project "The Sound of The Forbidden City" kicks off on April 3. [Photo provided to]

In a historic move, composer and conductor Tan Dun has become the first musician to gather sound materials at the Palace Museum in Beijing for "The Sound of The Forbidden City", a groundbreaking music project initiated by the China National Traditional Orchestra.

In 2023, The Palace Museum, China National Traditional Orchestra, and Universal Music China, a division of the globally renowned Universal Music Group, jointly announced the launch of "The Sound of The Forbidden City". This innovative music project aims to celebrate the creativity and ingenuity of traditional Chinese culture, drawing inspiration from the architectural marvels and cultural treasures housed within the Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, which served as China's imperial palace from 1420 to 1911.

Tan expressed that his inspiration for the project stemmed from the Golden Bell Chimes (bianzhong) dating back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), a remarkable artifact housed at the Palace Museum. The bianzhong, among the oldest Chinese musical instruments, comprises a set of bells of varying sizes that produce distinct sounds when struck. Historically, it was a musical instrument used by imperial families for ceremonial purposes.

Zhao Cong (left), a veteran  pipa player and the president of China National Traditional Orchestra, and composer and conductor Tan Dun, at the Palace Museum in Beijing on April 3. [Photo provided to]

Zhao Cong, a distinguished pipa player and the president of the China National Traditional Orchestra, revealed that the music project will involve 12 composers from both domestic and international backgrounds, each tasked with composing 12 pieces of music, which will be compiled into a recording. The process of each composer's sound material collection and recording will be documented and released as a 12-episode documentary.

"This music project will serve as a window to showcase China's rich and profound culture to the world," Zhao said, adding that the roster of composers will include prominent names, such as Ye Xiaogang, Zhao Lin and Hao Weiya.

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