Tan Dun | Out of Peking Opera
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Peking opera, in a certain sense, represents concentrated characteristics of traditional Chinese music and culture. Its arias, rhymed dialogues, melodic statements and structure all have their unique and consistent systems. Because the composer has worked as a musician in a Peking Opera troupe, many of his pieces are influenced by his experiences there. The pieces do not have any specific musical material from Peking opera, but is based on its traditional style. In the orchestra and violin solo, the composer strives to derive a new and freer musical language while retaining the character of the earlier style of Chinese drama. The composer remarked, “I hope that the audience listening to the violin solo will think of a Peking opera actress’s aria, and rhymed dialogue, the Peking opera’s fiddle accompaniment, and the orchestra may remind the audience of Peking opera’s sonority and atmosphere”. It was the blood relationship between the new and the traditional as well as the different modes of presentation that inspired the composer to write this piece.

–David Glaser; for NYC Symphony Concert; February 7, 1988

Dialogues with Tan Dun

What is Out of Peking Opera?

1. The first three bars of this piece are a direct quotation from the ‘jing hu’ fiddling of Peking Opera. This is the seed — it unfolds, becomes increasingly abstract, expressionistic, developing power, beauty, and longing.

2. I began this piece when I first came to New York and left behind the ancient continuity of Chinese society. I saw new things, and began to make connections between my own thoughts and the rest of the world. I felt refreshed, lamenting. I started to see my past more clearly. But I’m still not sure if “out of” means farther away, or closer?

In 1987, Out of Peking Opera was written in ambivalence, confronting serialism, being attracted yet doubting that it was the way for me. A second operation was necessary, and finally in 1994 it was completed and out of my mind.

–Tan Dun

“This is probably one of the most remarkable productions of contemporary music of the year.”

–Benjamin G. Cohrs, Klassik-Heute.com, June 1998



16 Minutes

Solo: Violin
World Premiere

February 7, 1988
New York, NY
Avery Fisher Hall
New York City Symphony
David Eaton, conductor
Vera Weiling Tsu, violin
Other Performances

December 8, 1994
Glasgow, Scotland
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra
Tan Dun, conductor
Cho-Liang Lin, violin
More Info
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