How does one celebrate this moment in time that seems to haunt our collective psyche? One international consortium of television broadcasters – led by the BBC and ABC, PBS, CNN etc. had a particularly inspired idea: to transmit via satellite and over 55 networks worldwide a millennium program, beginning at the hour of midnight in the pacific island of Tanga and tracking zero hour as it progresses westward across the globe through each of the earth’s 24 time zones. Only a feat so ambitious, never before attempted in broadcast history, is worthy of the millennium. And to celebration, composer Tan Dun was commissioned to write the joyous 2000 Today: A World Symphony for the Millennium.
Although Tan’s music is renowned for its spiritual; and meditative qualities, he is increasingly embracing a more global perspective in his work. With 2000 Today he introduces the innovative concept of a “mosaic” Symphony. Immediately noticeable are 2000 Today’s two contrasting orchestras: one consisting of classical Western instruments, a chorus, and soprano soloist; the other using world instruments and “primitive” sounds like shooting stars. Percussion is thundering East Asian Ohdaiko and the pattering Middle Eastern tar. Clacking stones and the sound of water, alternately cascading and icy, are also important elements in 2000 today, as they represent to Tan the beginning of the worlds journey.
Serving as the centerpiece of the symphony’s mosaic form, and heard in every movement, is an easily recognizable ‘chant’: the gently lush, ascending theme first heard in the string at the beginning of the piece. It has the flavor of an ancient scale, an Indian raga, a gamelan melody-to which counterpointed musical material is added to capture the poetic spirit of the world’s regions. In the work’s finale, Tan blends the chant and all its counterpoints into a “Unity.” Here, with a sense of inevitability, the chant musically unifies the earth’s culture as one. And as a culminating anthem, the Gipsy Kings and Ziggy Marley come together for Bob Marley’s reggae classic” One Love” to sing of a world united by love.
The liberation I feel as an artist is granted to myself from myself. I must treat everything — all of music history and culture — as having no boundaries. No matter what the era, culture or language, everything can inspire you to think outside of limitations and boundaries. Given this freedom, tremendous things can happen in your musical imagination. The only questions are: how and when will you create it? These are my challenges for the new millennium.
–Tan Dun, October 18, 1999