Tan Dun | Soundshape
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In the 1980’s, Tan Dun met New York-based potter Ragnar Naess and began to experiment with ceramic sound-forms.

They created a unique set of ceramic instruments, played by blowing,
striking, plucking and bowing.

Out of this, Soundshape was born.

Written for an ensemble of over 70 ceramic instruments, Soundshape features sound objects that fall into five categories: skin, wood, bamboo, metal and earth


Inspired by ancient Chinese carillons of jade or metal and by sounds that Tan Dun has encountered in ethnomusicological research in rural China, these instruments copy no traditional shape, tuning or material.

They harmonize the composer’s visual design and the potter’s skill in forming special hard, thin, ringing clays.

“The results are spectacular,” raved the Evening Standard. The piece combines “crashing energetic percussive bursts with silences and melodic use of bells, chimes and wind instruments. The musicians perform vibrantly, creating great swathes of sound and are led by Tan Dun himself.”