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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

Tan Dun & Yo-Yo Ma

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Album Review

Though it was made in Taiwan, set in China and written in Mandarin, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is something of a cultural hybrid. The film was the brainchild of a Taiwanese director (Ang Lee) with an impressive Hollywood resume that includes Sense and Sensibility and The Ice Storm. The screenplay was adapted from a Chinese novel by two Asians and an American and it featured international movie star Chow Yun Fat. Stylistically, the movie drew as much from Hollywood romantic epics as it did from Chinese martial arts dramas. The challenge for the film's composer, Tan Dun, was to score the film with music that would represent its multi-cultural origins and multi-faceted influences. His solution was to blend sweeping Western orchestral music with traditional Chinese instruments like rawap, tar drums and Chinese erhu while using another internationally renowned Asian, cellist Yo Yo Ma, as a sort of bridge between the two styles. Dun's strategy works beautifully in the film; striking perfectly the delicate balance between the exotic and the familiar — exactly what is required by a script that paints a romanticized fantasy version of ancient China grounded in universal emotional experience. The romantic themes ("The Eternal Vow," "Farewell") are stirring without being manipulative and memorable without being repetitive. Even more impressive are the musical pieces for the film's graceful combat scenes. Unlike most American action films, Crouching Tiger does not swamp the audience in discordant suspense music. And though the warriors do fly across their battlefields like stones skipping lightly across a pond, Dun does not attempt an E.T.-like soaring score. Instead, the action scenes are accompanied by vibrant Chinese rhythms, mercifully abandoning melody altogether. The only false moment on the soundtrack is the grating end credit pop ballad "A Love Before Time," which is performed by Asian American singer CoCo Lee. The song is a transparent attempt to mimic Celine Dion's megahit closer for Titanic, "My Heart Will Go On," and it is an infuriatingly commercial conclusion to a gloriously original film. [The Japanese release adds one bonus track: "Green Destiny (Love Theme)"]


Born: 18 August 1957 in Si Mao, Hunan

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Tan Dun is one of the most influential classical composers to emerge from China. Combining the musical traditions of his homeland with contemporary Western influences, Dun has created a rich legacy of unique compositions. Known for his use of vivid drama, expressive harmonies, and imaginative tonal coloring, Dun has been characterized by his spatial arrangements and use of silence. A partial list of ensembles that have performed and/or recorded his work includes the Kronos Quartet, Yo Yo Ma, London...
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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), Tan Dun
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