Neo-orientalism in the Operas of Tan Dun
MetadataShow full item record
As the most active neo-orientalist composer, Tan Dun is known for using instruments constructed from organic materials, and fusing Western avant-garde compositional techniques with Asian cultural traditions. Forming part of a larger repertory of music by Asian, Asian-American and Asian-European composers, this neo-orientalist aesthetic has captured the interest of critics and scholars alike. Yet an in-depth study of precisely how musical representations of difference function in this “neo-orientalist” repertory is far from clear. In this thesis, I investigate neo-orientalism in Tan Dun’s five operas: the three early operas, Nine Songs (1989), Marco Polo (1995), Peony Pavilion (1998); Tea: A Mirror of Soul (2002) and The First Emperor (2006). My examination outlines two neo-orientalist approaches used by Tan Dun in his operas: seeking inspiration from indigenous cultural traditions and Western musical traditions, and using familiar and recognizable musical features believed to be Asian by Western audiences. Ultimately, my analysis of Tan Dun’s operas serves as a case study of musical manifestations of neo-orientalism in the broader repertory.