This July, Tan Dun took the stage for the Shanghai Summer Air Festival, leading the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the Hanggai Band in a program of Symphonic Rock.
“Symphonic Rock is a dialogue between symphony and rock ‘n’ roll,” says Tan Dun. “Bach talks to rock, Wagner to Kublai Khan. The music can contain so many different elements, and we’re taking folk to the future.”
Tan Dun has collaborated with the Hanggai Band, a Mongolian folk group, to create this unique style. They premiered the song “Semi-Conductors from Shanghai,” an exciting statement that creates synergies between the nostalgic and the futuristic, during the July 10 performance.
Tan Dun has also performed Symphonic Rock with bands from across China.
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“The Hanggai Band plays the ‘original’ rock ‘n’ roll, the folk music of Mongolia that has existed for generations. These musicians mix their 21st-century creations with folk music.”
“This kind of thinking creates a new language, one that communicates across time.”
Tan Dun has also come together with the Hanggai Band for a 2017 New Year’s concert. “At the concert, when the guitar started punching chords, and there was throat singing, piano, violin, cello, and Morin Khuur, all started to encounter each other across different cultures. Folk inspired rock in dialogue with symphony, bringing the audience brand new musical experiences through extreme tension. Tan Dun led the Macau Orchestra, Hanggai Band, and European performers to explore the life of sound through the dialogues with rock. The audience enjoyed the extreme joy brought to their lives by this music.” – Wen Wei Po Hong Kong
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the New Year’s Concert:
(“Soundcheck” by Ian Tan)
“A lot of journalists asked me why I wanted to start this rock n’ roll symphony project,” says Tan Dun. “It’s because rock always challenges society, saying ‘no’ to the social status quo, whereas symphony always holds onto tradition. But I’ve noticed something: every artist who collaborates with an orchestra has rock n’ roll spirit. Beethoven, for example, was always having dialogue with the current social issues of his time, and thus he pushed against the status quo. Symphony orchestras today lock themselves into a museum-like cage, and only play the classics. The modern voice has nothing to do with us. That is not right. We need more of a Beethoven spirit.”
Tan Dun adds, “the reason I want to perform symphonic rock ‘n’ roll is because I want young people to enter the concert hall. I want concert-goers to love new music. I want to increase the ‘spiritual GDP,’ our educational and spiritual assets.”