Oct 20, 2012

The sound of the bamboo forest

When Tan Dun (譚盾) premiered The Map, Concerto for cello, video and orchestra in Hong Kong in 2009 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre Concert Hall, with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the concert was introduced as "Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun’s multimedia adventure across time, space, and cultures". It was a thrilling night of musical extravaganza, counterpointing between the cello solo and video orchestra and video, solo and ensemble, text and sound, and multichannel video and playing of stone.

Contemporary music never gets a big fan in Hong Kong. The Map was destined to be a single concert, but Tan was happy to stay behind to shake hands with fans like Paul and me.

Tan's theme score in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon is however very popular, made unbeatable with big names like Director Li An, Cellist Yo-yo Ma, and an unbeatable cast of Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, and Chang Chen. Tan will always be the oscar-winning composer from then on. Tan's music came back to my mind almost in reality when I visited one of China's best preserved eco-towns Anji (安吉) where the movie was shot. Last year I was invited to give a talk on art and jewelry to an audience of alumni members of Hangzhou's Zhejiang University, and the same host brought me to this beautiful town some day before the event.

I love nature but very often I would be frustrated by the noisy and jostling people around popular tourist attractions. Luckily it was a weekday, and the place was quiet, quiet and clean, with clear running stream from mountain top, a few locals leisurely fishing, almost like a cozy Japanese town deep in the mountains. The famous bamboo forest park was surprisingly calm and quiet. Tan's music belongs here. The man at the park complained to us that the crews left behind loads of rubbish after the shooting, but they were grateful that the movie attracted many visitors. "It's good for business".

We had our dinner at a local farm eatery where they served whatever they liked to cook for you, with the nice concept private dinner (私房菜). I enjoy cooking and am convinced that working with the freshest ingredients is a prerequisite to a good dish. We got the freshest ingredients that day, the freshest home-grown vegetables, the freshest local fish from the running stream, and, we also had an excellent dish with a kind of meat that I hadn't tasted before.

There was no tiger, nor any dragon around. Just an unlucky rabbit, I was told.

Bamboo forest in Anji

The sound of the bamboo forest, interpreted by Yo-yo Ma and Tan Dun

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