Tan Dun | Contrabass Concerto: Wolf Totem
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In Contrabass Concerto: Wolf Totem, Tan Dun gives voice to both the velvety expressive sound of the contrabass and also the instrument’s virtuosic propulsive percussive abilities.


The work is inspired by Jiang Rong’s Chinese novel “Wolf Totem,” a period epic and fable for modern days depicting the dying culture of the Mongols and the parallel extinction of the animal they believe to be sacred: the fierce and otherworldly Mongolian wolf.


Imbued with the history of the ancient Silk Road culture – Wolf Totem resonated deeply with Tan Dun’s personal connection and fascination with the spirits of the natural world and the sounds and customs of the ancient cultures along the Silk Road.


The symbol of the Mongolian wolf and its life in the grasslands for Tan Dun is a mirror of the human spirit and our relationship to the natural world.


In crafting the instrumental gestures of both the solo and orchestral writing Tan intentionally weaves together Eastern /Western elements (a frequent characteristic of his larger orchestral compositions) and here more specifically the ancient techniques of traditional Silk Road instruments with those of the modern orchestra.


In particular in “The Wolf,” fingering techniques in the string writing and rhythmic gestures throughout are adapted from the styles of ancient Mongolian Horse Fiddle playing.


“The Wolf” is in the traditional concerto format of three movements – with two outer movements full of dynamic colors and rhythmic drive surrounding a slow and strikingly lyrical middle movement.