Year of Publication

2021

Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Fine Arts

Department

Music

First Advisor

Benjamin Karp

Abstract

Tan Dun’s Crouching Tiger Concerto for Amplified Cello and Orchestra is not only one of the most frequently performed cello concerto of the recent past; it also demonstrates Tan’s masterful synthesis of artistic forms from the Chinese and the Western art music traditions with visual media that extends beyond the concert-hall. The music for this concerto was initially composed as part of the score for Ang Lee’s film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, itself a landmark blend of Chinese cinema with Western technique. The score broke boundaries, combining Western orchestral music with traditional Chinese instruments and thematic material. This melding of a wide variety of influences is typical of Tan’s œuvre and reveals the depth of his personal experience; his works include references to childhood experiences in the Hunan province, soundscapes suggested by his many years of struggle in New York City, and instrumentations that reflect his interest in environmentalism.

Performing the Crouching Tiger Concerto can be a challenging undertaking. Each movement expresses musical ideas both Chinese and Western, while simultaneously mirroring the emotions of the film clips that Tan selected for display behind the performance. This paper will explore these connections, suggesting ways in which an aspiring performer can bring out the most important details of each section of the concerto. It will also give suggestions for navigating some of the unique technical challenges of the solo cello part; glissandi, use of a guitar pick, and amplification. The music of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon had an indelible impact on me as a young child, single-handedly cementing my future as cellist, and I am glad, twenty years later, to be able use my experiences learning this piece to help others who are approaching it for the first time.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2021.013

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