Tan Dun describes Eight Memories as a “diary of longing,” inspired by the folk songs of his culture and the recollection of his childhood. Today, and with slight revisions suggested by Lang Lang, it is presented as a series of personal and delicate restorations of time and memory now passed. This highly pictorials music was originally titled Eight Sketches in Hunan Accent, and recalls the period in the composer’s life when the violence of the Cultural Revolution was just ending and Western music was once again permitted. His own career was just beginning. Today Tan Dun is sought after worldwide as both composer and performer. His latest commissions include a work for the Metropolitan Opera and a symphony for 12 cellos and orchestra for the Berliner Philharmoniker. But he remembers his aesthetic genesis.
The medium of watercolor is vital to an appreciation of this music. It contains none of the extremes of gesture and attack ordinarily associated with virtuoso display. Rather, it is meditation and reverie. Missing Moon is a small statement of regret, and Staccato Beans a childhood game – simple, direct, bouncing with energy. The Herdboy’s Song flies on dissonant ornamentation, and the Blue Nun, although centering on a traditional E minor, carries a folk melody in simplest expression. Red Wilderness opens and closes in stillness, but its center is a brief maelstrom of danger and uncertainty. Ancient Burial bears a suggestion of anger and loss, modified by the deft and rather French pictorialism of Floating Clouds. The set ends with Sunrain, a vigorous dance that apparently makes no promises as to its outcome.
— Carnegie Hall, November 2003
In a New Year’s Eve, We met. New Year bells had just finished ringing when friends asked Lang Lang to play. It would be everyone’s fortune to hear the first music of the New Year. Lang Lang humbled, agreed, and played. Everyone was mesmerized by his performance. I was actually speechless for a long while, but nobody knew why. I was very touched, and couldn’t really believe my ears. Lang Lang played “Floating Clouds,” one of my first piano pieces written more than twenty years ago (four years before Lang Lang’s birth). Lang Lang’s interpretation was pure as water. I almost thought that I had written this work for him, even though he hadn’t been born then. I heard the voice inside me of his playing; I could smell the earth of my homeland. It is a real gift when a musician can play a piece that inspires me to think about where I came from, where I am going. Lang Lang is a poet and has magical powers: he could tell an unending story. In his storytelling, I hear the voice of the human soul and the silence of nature. I do believe Lang Lang is one of the most outstanding pianists of our time.Read More
Eight Memories in Watercolor was written when I left Hunan to study at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. It was my opus one. The Cultural Revolution had just ended, China just opened its doors, I was immersed in studying Western classical and modern music, but I was also homesick. I longed for the folksongs and savored the memories of my childhood. Therefore, I wrote my first piano work as a diary of longing. The work 15 subdivided into eight short pieces:
1 Missing Moon
2 Staccato Beans
3 Herdboy’s Song
4 Blue Nun
5 Ancient Burial
6 Floating Clouds
7 Red Wildemess
Pieces 2, 3, 4, 8 are based on my favorite folksongs from my childhood in Hunan. I composed the melodies of the other four. Since then, choreographers Chiang Ching and Muna Tseng set this work to modern dance. Pianist Fou Ts’ong got to know this work through Chiang, and performed four of the pieces. In 2001 I met Lang Lang, and he told me he wanted to premiere the complete Eight Memories in Watercolor in his concerts, for which I am very grateful I made slight revisions to the work, in renaming titles, order of the pieces, and overall structure, according to Lang Lang’s suggestions.
— Tan Dun[/expand ]
“Mr. Dun created a remarkable texture that often had the otherwordly quality of electronic music”
–New York Times, February 27 1997