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Colorful composition

Updated: 2019-05-22 11:07:42

( China Daily )

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Oscar-winning composer Tan Dun (left) and Chinese soprano Lei Jia at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing on Thursday.[Photo by Jiang Dong/China Daily]

Lei uses her voice to portray different roles, such as the deer of nine colors and its sisters. The musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra also give vocal performances in the concert.

"The musicians have a musical dialogue in the piece with Lei. It's challenging for her because she has to change her pitch and use different techniques, such as Chinese folk singing and bel canto, to portray different roles," says Tan.

He notes that he has been interested in Chinese folk singing since he was a student at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Born in Changsha, Hunan province, Tan was among the first students to be admitted to study at the conservatory in 1978, after the "cultural revolution" (1966-76) had ended.

While being classically trained, Tan likes to combine traditional Chinese folk elements with Western composition techniques.

He is no stranger to innovation. He regularly composes for opera, theater and orchestra and often mixes rock and pop with the sounds of primal elements like water, paper and stone.

For his composition of The Deer of Nine Colors, Tan incorporated elements of traditional Chinese opera, such as narration.

"When Tan invited me to perform in his vocal concerto, I anticipated the piece. I watched the cartoon movie of The Deer of Nine Colors as a child, which is a household story in China. He created a great work by turning a visual piece into music," says Lei, 39, who, like Tan, was born and raised in Hunan province.

"He captures the movements of the roles with the sounds of musical instruments, such as the scene of the deer strolling beside the river and the king's army pursuing it," says Lei. "Although it is a Chinese story, the musicians of the Philadelphia Orchestra understand it."

To find inspiration for the vocal concerto, Lei visited Dunhuang and composed her own musical piece, her first composition, after studying the murals there, Lei adds

Tan and Lei rehearsed the work with the orchestra at their base in the US city of Philadelphia. The composer says the process of making the piece was "a journey back to my childhood".

"Now as a father, I tell the same story to my children. I hope this vocal concerto will inspire more people around the world to share a Chinese story, based on mutual understanding, love and compassion," Tan says.

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