Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Fine Arts


Music Performance

First Advisor

Benjamin Karp


The Chinese American composer Tan Dun was born in 1957 in the Hunan province of China. His early life reflected the difficulties of being a student during the Cultural Revolution. Tan Dun’s Intercourse of Fire and Water for Cello Solo reflects the composer’s journey from China to the USA in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution. The piece is the first solo concerto originating from Dun’s Yi0: Concerto for Orchestra, which was written in 2002 and is based on the ancient Chinese book I Ching (Book of Changes). The Yi Cycle includes four works: Yi0: Concerto for Orchestra, Yi1: Intercourse of Fire and Water, Yi2: Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra and Yi3 ‘Earth’ from Heaven, Earth, Mankind-Symphony 1997.

Through his study of I Ching, Tan Dun was fascinated by ‘that which already exists and that which has not yet come to be.’ He explores these balances in his Yi pieces. This document will discuss the depiction and philosophical idea of the I Ching expressed in the Yi pieces. The content of this document will include background information about the composer and the piece, followed by an analysis of the formal design and harmonic structure for Yi1: Intercourse of Fire and Water. Additionally, I will be comparing the leitmotivs used for each section to each of the works in the Yi Cycle. The outcome of the document will provide a detailed performance guide and suggestions for the interpretation of the piece.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)