If you go by traditional Chinese belief, the composer Tan Dun did not have a very lucky childhood.
He was born in a village called Si Mao, or Silk Hair, named for trees that blanketed the countryside in flowing strands that were unusually white, the Chinese color of mourning. Because of this inauspicious landscape, other communities in Hunan Province designated Si Mao as the place to bring their dead.
“It was where old people were buried. It was very, very scary,” Mr. Tan, 58, said in an interview in Hong Kong last month.
“The plants had floating white hairs, and I grew up among crying songs, mourning songs.”