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About Water and Music. . . Tan Dun and the Water Concerto
Tan Dun, Chinese composer and conductor, is one of the most interesting figures on the contemporary music scene, known to a large audience thanks to his repertoire ranging from classical music to multimedia performance and cinema.
Tan Dun and the Water Concerto

Tan Dun's music combines Chinese shamanic tradition with Western avant-garde, combining interest in the past and history with innovation and an eye towards the future. It brings together introspection and spectacularity, finding its own specific language capable of speaking to large segments of the public in the context of globalized cultural communication.

A very current and deeply felt theme in his works is the attention to nature and the protection of the environment, often present in his scores. He makes it a central instance in his organic music, in symbiosis with the environment, in which natural elements such as water, stones, paper and ceramic objects with their natural sounds interact with the traditional instruments of the orchestra. He thus explores new sound areas, such as in his famous compositions that revolve around the aquatic element, the Water Concerto for water percussion and orchestra of 1998, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for Kurt Masur, the Water Music that constitutes it. an excerpt proposed as a stand-alone piece, and the Water Passion After St. Matthew.

For the Water Concerto (1998), which is based on the synthesis between Eastern and Western culture, Tan Dun together with the orchestra uses a series of pools filled with water. By reproducing the sounds of nature, it combines them with those of Western instruments, obtaining a single color. In the performance of the concert, the theatrical and scenographic aspects are also of particular importance, from the movements of the individual performers on stage to the arrangements of the lights.

This is how the artist presents this fascinating work, which has become a point of reference in the field of contemporary music: “What is water? Sometimes you feel that water is the voice of birth or rebirth. But now I feel that water is like tears, nature's tears. Every time I travel I realize that it is very difficult to find clean water. Almost everywhere there is pollution. So it makes it difficult for me to sing along with my music… My early life, living around water, having fun with water and making ritual music resonate through water, became a great source of inspiration for me. 'inspiration. Somehow I now spend a lot of my time recomposing this type of memory... recomposing this type of experience, with a new method. In Hunan (ed. the Chinese province where the composer was born) water was a daily element of our life. Every day we washed everything with river water. All the old women, they always went to the river to do their laundry, making a beautiful sound, very rhythmic. So I transfer those memories of beautiful laundry sounds and swimming sounds, body snapping sounds, sounds of dancing water, of inviting water, into my orchestrations."

Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra  (1998; first performance New York 1999, Italian premiere Rome 2007, National Academy of Santa Cecilia)

Taken from Water Concerto for Water Percussion and Orchestra, Water Music it is a piece in itself, of great impact for the way in which the composer has brought together and concentrated all the elements of his concert in a single piece. A piece 'I live' in that work in progress, where the soloist freely improvises, never repeating the same thing twice, reflecting the musical experiences Tan Dun knew as a boy in the Taoist ritual. For Tan Dun, water is a metaphor, and a symbol of renewal, re-creation and resurrection, and the use of aquatic instruments is intended as musical metaphysics. 

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