• Tan Dun
  • Four Secret Roads of Marco Polo (2004)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)
  • 2+pic.2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4331/timp.4perc/hp/str
  • 12 Cellos
  • 30 min

Programme Note

I. Out of Venice
II. Bazaar of Souls
III. Secret of Raga
IV. Temple of Heaven

Four Secret Roads of Marco Polo has two meanings. On the philosophical level, it's about humanity — a reflection of the phenomenon of historical Silk Road cultures, which still remain so haunting. From my personal point of view, I see Si Lu (Chinese for Silk Road) as very open and inspirational — like a caterpillar spinning its cocoon, no matter how long you pull the silk, the thread never breaks. That invisible thread always exists. To me, Si Lu is an invisible yet unbreakable connection. Four Secret Roads of Marco Polo is a soulful search of cultural harmonies that are organically related even though the individual elements all grow in different forms and directions. This work is about the many secrets that exist within and between cultures.

Secondly, as a composer, I always retreat to my own secret land, to that inner creative source that I revisit from piece to piece. There are always different technical and spiritual inventions in my secret land.

For this piece, my inspirations come from those sounds made on extremely haunting, plucked instruments such as the sitar and pipa. Ancient philosophers believed that any sound that exists has a life — a starting point, duration of its sounding, and an end. To me, a sound is a life, and life is sound. I transpose and enlarge these inspirations from plucking sounds (plucking living sounds) to orchestral colors and gestures.

—Tan Dun

17 June 2004 (with the title Secret Land)
Berlin Philharmonic
Simon Rattle, conductor
Berlin, Germany