Music represents the great bridge over cultural and ethnic diversity and is the conduit for harmonizing and enriching humanity’s wellbeing. It seems appropriate and coincidental that today, 22 March “World Water Day”, that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) bestowed a Goodwill Ambassadorship on Tan Dun, a renowned Chinese composer. Also today, the head of UNESCO noted that 90 per cent of the world’s population lives in countries that must share water resources with their neighbours.


Tan, born in Hunan Province in 1957, is a blend of musical enrichment. At an early age he was influenced by Shaman rituals and ceremonies, which incorporated organic objects like rocks and water. Peasants provided the knowledge of traditional Chinese string instruments. Tan received classical training at the Central Conservatory of Music and performed at the Beijing Opera Orchestra on the viola. As an ‘80’s doctoral student at Columbia University in New York City, he discovered experimental musicians: Philip Glass, John Cage, Meredith Monk, and Steve Reich.


Tan’s compositions also utilize non-traditional, organic instruments like amplified bowls of water in lieu of percussion instruments. As part of his multi-media repertoire, he includes orchestras, video, and the audience. However, Tan is probably best known for his movie scores in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,”


Music, like water, is a precious resource. It must be shared, embraced, and sustained for all global citizens.  Congratulations, Tan Dun, for being a bridge over troubled water.


UN News Centre Source


UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova said Mr. Tan was chosen because of his “efforts to promote intercultural dialogue through music, consciousness of the scarcity of natural resources such as water, and the diversity of languages,” as well as for his dedication to the ideals and aims of the UN.

Mr. Tan is known for his creative repertoire, which spans the boundaries of classical music, multimedia performance, and Eastern and Western traditions. He is most widely known for his scores for the movies ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and ‘Hero.’

His music has been played throughout the world by leading orchestras, opera houses, international festivals, and on radio and television. Mr. Tan has also conducted renowned orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and the Berliner Philharmoniker.

As a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, Mr. Tan will join the ranks of distinguished personalities who use their name and fame to spread the ideals of the agency, such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Nelson Mandela of South Africa, United States jazz musician Herbie Hancock and Cuban ballerina and choreographer Alicia Alonso.




By, Susan Sacirbey


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PHOTO (Tan Dun) Credit: culturalexchange-cn.nl