• Tan Dun
  • Percussion Concerto: The Tears of Nature (2012)

  • G Schirmer Inc (World)
  • 3(pic).2+ca.2+bcl.2+cbn/4.3.2+btbn.1/4perc/hp/str
  • Percussion
  • 27 min

Programme Note

I. Summer (for timpani and orchestra)
II. Autumn (for marimba and orchestra)
III. Winter (for percussion and orchestra)

Pre performance:
October 11 2012
Martin Grubinger, percussion
Bergen Symphony Orchestra
Elvind Aadland, conductor
Bergen, Norway

World Premiere Performance
December 13 2012
Martin Grubinger, percussion
NDR Sinfonieorchester
Tan Dun, conductor
Lübeck, Germany

Composer's Note

I wrote this piece for my dear friend, a true percussion artist, Martin Grubinger. Upon conclusion of this work I made a video demonstration for Martin, sharing the methods I used to draw out the many colors of percussion, using the video to show the unique techniques such as finger flicking, rubbing, scraping etc. While composing I thought about nature and focused on the passion of Martin Grubinger.

Nature is the only suitable illustrator for the richness of percussion sounds and instruments. Nature does not just represent four seasons in a year, it also can depict the many animals it holds such as lions or tigers, animals that can take on many forms, that can be beautiful, threatening, friendly or loving. My Percussion Concerto is divided into three movements, each one representing a different color of nature; the color of nature’s thunder, the color of nature’s passion and the color of nature’s energy – each united with the human spirit.

The first movement, Threat of Nature, was prompted by my unforgettable memories and the unbearable, instantaneous loss of thousands, during the Sichuan earthquake in 2008.Threat of Nature is depicted using the timpani, which shows both the gentle and explosive power of nature. The transformation from the beginning of the movement to end employs various techniques on the timpani, from large mallets to finger flicking, symbolizes the taming of nature. This movement honors all spirits touched by the brutal force of nature in 2008.

The second movement, Tears of Nature, was born as I watched the enormously heart-wrenching live broadcast of the tsunami in Japan on television. For every inhale of the tsunami waves – how many lives vanished? For every exhale how many spirits were washed away? I believe after nature’s brutality must come nature’s regret, it’s tears. The tragedy of the tsunami is represented by a sorrowful marimba solo crying for all of the victims of the tsunami. Tremolos and cascading lines mirror the images of water in nature, nature’s tears: rain, rivers, and oceans.

The third movement, Dance of Nature, comes from my awe and affection for New York City and its residents. I love New York because it does not believe in wallowing in tears. After Hurricane Sandy all of lower Manhattan and many others were without power, but New Yorkers never lost their energy and confidence. Dance of Nature uses assorted percussion instruments, all placed in a circle. Shadowing the first two movements, I bring their motives back and mix them with the new melodies introduced. The motives dance together causing the percussionist, in turn to whirl around within the circle of percussion instruments symbolizing both nature and the human spirit dancing together – reminding me of New York and its ability to keep cheerful in spirits and dance even while suffering from loss – the spirit of New York is always strong.

Although the three movements in this concerto about three natural disasters in different cities, they all share in the same memory, one where the human spirit stays strong. This concerto commemorates human spirit as it lives, fights and dances with nature.