Date of Award

2006

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Performing Arts Honours

School

Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

Faculty

Faculty of Education & Arts

Abstract

"Shostakovich, as· a composer also living under a dictatorship, taught me to express deep humanity. From Takemitsu, I learned that Western and Eastern instruments can be part of the same color palette. John Cage led me to discover structures and sounds as yet unknown, by always keeping an open mind. I owe deepest thanks to these three composers, whose contributions to music have also helped me develop myself---as a composer from a·. traditional culture, growing up in a high-pressure society, living in a now international world." (Tan Dun) The global reach of Tan Dun's music reached its zenith recently at the 2001 Academy Awards where he received an Oscar for the music to the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He is as equally lauded in China- where, in fact, he is their most prominent cultural export- as he is in the West: where he enjoys commissions from the world's finest ensembles including the Metropolitan Opera and many international symphony orchestras. Though particularly known for his long epic-scale music, this dissertation's subject matter centres round Tan Dun as a young 21-year-old, before his successes in the West. In particular, the dissertation is a study of performance practices in Tan's opus one, Eight Memories in Watercolor. Being of similar cultural background to Tan Dun - I was born in the same province as him in China, and educated as a young adult in the West- I am able to offer from the inside a reading of Eight Memories in Watercolor that draws on the performance sensibilities of both Chinese music and western classical music. The dissertation is part exegesis- i.e. it documents how I arrived at an interpretation, and part pedagogical/practical, i.e. it offers a performance practice guide to those pianists seeking to probe some of the Chinese 'meanings' latent in the music. Chapter one sets the scene, and offers both a background to the place of music in the Cultural Revolution, and a historical sketch of the significance of the Beijing conservatory to the development of Tan Dun's music. Chapter two opens by setting out some parameters of performance practice theory, and in particular how these theories can be used to illuminate Tan's piano music. Chapter three traces the myriad of styles in Eight Memories in Watercolor. Through analysis, I show the work's close relationship to traditional Chinese music and also illustrate aesthetic elements that are drawn from both western and Chinese cultures. This chapter is to be read as a guide to performing this work, and, by dint of sharing the same culturally diverse background as Tan Dun, it is my hope that my reading of his music and that my guide to performance will offer to western pianists a richer starting point from which to craft their performances. I put this theory to the test in chapter four, where I conduct an experiment illustrating how my performance directions can assist non-Chinese pianists in capturing the "spirit" of Tan Dun's music. The results of this experiment are offered through a transcript and analysis of three interviews, one by each of the pianists undertaking the experiment. The dissertation concludes with an evaluation of the success of my research and offers some areas for further study.

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