Tan Dun | 30 World-Renowned Artists Talk to RTHK Radio 4’s Jonathan Douglas
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I have interviewed Tan Dun more than any other musician –four or five times…. Tan Dun is highly original. He is not trying to be –he just is, whether he likes it or not. He is also deeply committed and genuine. I admire him greatly for his remarkable, natural musical gift, and also because of the way he seems far less constrained by doubt and uncertainty than others. He is not overbearing, he is simply certain and clear about what he wants to do and how he will go about achieving it. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that he is less hampered by the defensiveness and hesitation that others are subject to through their insecurity.

Sometimes he says things to me in an interview that, if spoken by anyone else, would be hard to take seriously. For example, he said, in a more recent interview in early 2004, that in one part of a work called Improvisation for Orchestra, there would be an orchestral dialogue with the sounds of birds. So, in the performance, he would invite some twenty Hong Kong birds to take part, and they would be set up in a “bird group” in the concert hall balcony!

Everything he does is exciting and fresh. Characteristically, he explores ways in which the primitive, the ritualistic, and the natural can combine with a sophisticated Western orchestra, and he does this to magical effect.