Explore the Festival
Full Calendar ›
Browse Artists ›
Focus on
Ancient Paths ›
Modern Voices ›
Ways to Buy
Save 15% or More on
Festival Tickets
Buy a Three-Concert
Package and Save
Blog Archive
About the Author
Ken Smith currently divides his time between New York (where he writes for Gramophone magazine) and Hong Kong (where he serves as the Asian–performing arts critic for the Financial Times). He is Co–Music Director of the recordings Dong Folk Songs and Miao Music for China's MediaFusion Group, and he won an ASCAP–Deems Taylor Award in 2008 for his liner notes to Gil Shaham's recording of The Butterfly Lovers Concerto for Violin. Ken is also the author of Fate! Luck! Chance!, published in 2008 by Chronicle Books.

Ancient Paths, Modern Voices Blog

Tan Dun: Visual Music

Tan Dun

Of all the events that could possibly feature Tan Dun at Carnegie Hall’s China Festival, you might not expect the composer to be a featured solo visual artist in a Chelsea gallery, but there he was. Or at least his hands were.

Chambers Fine Art, which has worked to introduce Chinese visual artists to American audiences since 2000, inaugurated its new location on 19th Street last week with an exhibition devoted to the composer’s Organic Music. It is a bit of a homecoming for Tan, since it was downtown in the experimental milieu of the late 1980s that his music first started incorporating natural elements like water, paper, and stones. In pieces like Ghost Opera and his subsequent Water Concerto (which the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra performs with soloist Colin Currie tonight), the dripping and splashing of water emerges as a full-fledged musical vocabulary with unusual dramatic resonance.

But why at a gallery? Back in 2004, Tan was first invited to assemble an installation of his performance works by artist Cai Guo-Qiang for Taiwan’s Bunker Museum of Contemporary Art. Entitled Visual Music, the exhibition later traveled to the Shanghai Gallery of Art in 2005.

The current exhibition—consisting of a cross-shaped, cross-lit arrangement of transparent water bowls from Tan’s Water Passion After St. Matthew (topped with a video screen of the composer’s hands playing with water) and a room of deconstructed pianos that represent “reconstruction and resurrection”—originated in 2008 at Chambers Fine Art Beijing in conjunction with the premiere of the composer’s Organic Music Tears of Nature at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts.

Posted by Ken Smith

© 2001-2009 Carnegie Hall Corporation

Chinese Translation (Traditional Characters)
Chinese Translation (Simplified Characters)