Eight Memories of Watercolor

Tan Dun
Intermediate to Advanced
15 min

Tan Dun describes Eight Memories as a “diary of longing,” inspired by the folk songs of his culture and the recollection of his childhood. Today, and with slight revisions suggested by Lang Lang, it is presented as a series of personal and delicate restorations of time and memory now passed. This highly pictorials music was originally titled Eight Sketches in Hunan Accent, and recalls the period in the composer’s life when the violence of the Cultural Revolution was just ending and Western music was once again permitted. His own career was just beginning. Today Tan Dun is sought after worldwide as both composer and performer. His latest commissions include a work for the Metropolitan Opera and a symphony for 12 cellos and orchestra for the Berliner Philharmoniker. But he remembers his aesthetic genesis.hide

The medium of watercolor is vital to an appreciation of this music. It contains none of the extremes of gesture and attack ordinarily associated with virtuoso display. Rather, it is meditation and reverie. Missing Moon is a small statement of regret, and Staccato Beans a childhood game – simple, direct, bouncing with energy. The Herdboy’s Song flies on dissonant ornamentation, and the Blue Nun, although centering on a traditional E minor, carries a folk melody in simplest expression. Red Wilderness opens and closes in stillness, but its center is a brief maelstrom of danger and uncertainty. Ancient Burial bears a suggestion of anger and loss, modified by the deft and rather French pictorialism of Floating Clouds. The set ends with Sunrain, a vigorous dance that apparently makes no promises as to its outcome.

— Carnegie Hall, November 2003