Tan Dun is a fiercely sought-after composer: theme song of Shanghai Disneyland, scores for the Beijing Olympics and the Oscar- and Grammy-winning movie soundtracks are just a small part of his impressive résumé. His latest production, however, entails something even more extraordinary: ‘organic’ music.
According to Tan, organic music “explores new realms of sound through primal elements such as water, paper and stone.” Do water and paper create enough music to put on an entire performance with? Tan brought his answer to Zhujiajiao, the ancient water town located just half an hour away from Shanghai, in the form of a breathtaking water performance, appropriately named ‘Water Heavens.’
The magic of Water Heavens began when Tan took a walk along the river in Zhujiajiao. As Bach was playing through an earphone, the monks of the town started chanting, creating an impromptu harmony of the East and the West. Just then, a single drop of water fell on his nose, creating a whirlwind of inspirations for him to share this magical moment with others, especially families.
His journey to recreate that moment as a musical performance started with building a concert hall dedicated entirely and solely to it. In fact, the building itself serves as both a symbol and an instrument for the performance. It is a symbol because the architecture is a beautiful mixture of the East and West, combining the Ming Dynasty-style and contemporary industrial Bauhaus, and also acts as an instrument because parts of the building are used during the performance to create unique sounds.
This incredible building is where Water Heavens – a four-act multidisciplinary performance with water – is performed. The first act, titled “Dialogue of Monks and Bach,” opens solemnly with Buddhist chants that harmoniously echo with the string quartet and the pipa. The pace becomes faster in the second act, as water percussions create a contemporary rock beat. The ending has a “surprisingly soothing effect that [leaves] many speechless for quite a few minutes after the show,” comments Ines from the production company.
According to Tan, this magic of a performance is “actually a youth platform.” Through his performance, Tan hopes that every child will “cherish the creative power of music and art while gaining awareness of the importance of water resources.” To that end, Tan has organized a RMB1 pre-performance tour for kids aged 6-16, where they can unleash their creativity with water. Guided by Felix the musicologist, the tour introduces children to the music hall and various water instruments and the children can perform a concerto at the end of the tour.
It is important for Tan that families get involved in Water Heavens: “I believe in the mutually enhancing power of creativity and social responsibility – and this can only happen with the infinite potential of young people.”
Kids pre-performance tour until December 31, Every Saturday 3-4pm, RMB1 (kids get in for free to performance), 3 Caogang Tan, by Xijing Lu, Zhujiajiao, WeChat Account: shuiyuetang2010.
Water Heavens performance, Every Saturday 7-8pm, RMB80-1,080 (accompanying parents get 50 percent discount), 3 Caogang Tan, by Xijing Lu, Zhujiajiao, www.waterheavens.org.