August 5, 2008 / 7:03 AM / 10 years ago

Crouching Tiger composer to set mood for medals

BEIJING (Reuters) - The Oscar-winning composer whose “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” soundtrack awed cinema audiences across the West is providing the mood music at the Olympics medal ceremonies in Beijing.

Tan Dun celebrates with the Oscar he won for Best Original Score for the movie "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" at the 73rd annual Academy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium, March 25, 2001 in Los Angeles, California. REUTERS/Sam Mircovich

Composer Tan Dun blended a historic recording of sacred bronze “chime bells” from an ancient Chinese tomb with the sound of jade musical stone to create a gentle clanging melody that will be the backdrop for tearjerker medal awards at the Games.

The Olympics are famous for producing goosebump-inducing music, and a yet-to-be released album of some 30 tracks for the Beijing Games is expected to sell heavily worldwide.

“When I was composing the music for the award ceremony, I was thinking ‘what makes a champion?”‘ China’s Tan said on Tuesday, as Beijing organizers unveiled the tunes that will play before during and after athletes get their medals.

Tan said he was moved by the 2,400-years-old dual-pitch sound of a set of two-tone bells excavated in the 1970s from the tomb of the Marquis Yi of Zeng in Hubei province.

The bells had such perfect pitch that they were rung during the 1997 ceremony to herald Hong Kong’s return from Britain to China and Tan based his Olympics composition around that recording, blended with more modern Chinese sounds.

“The sound comes from the heart of the Chinese,” he said.

Many in the West had never heard China’s spine-tingling traditional music until Ang Lee’s magical martial arts film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” filled cinemas around the world, earning four Oscars in 2001 including best original score for Tan’s music.

Tan, and fellow composer Wang Hesheng, have also put together a marching-band piece and stirring orchestral music, using traditional bells and stringed guqins for a Chinese flavor, to put lumps in throats as athletes approach the podium and walk away with medals.

Likely to jar more on some Western ears is a 1980s-sounding synthetic mix of China’s pentatonic scale with the piano-based rock music of Sweden’s Robert Wells, which will be used as the main television jingle for the Beijing Olympics.

The main musical line-up for the Olympics — particularly the opening and closing ceremonies which China is promising will be the most extravagant ever — is still mostly a secret.

As well as the Olympic hymn and China’s national anthem, drummers from the Shanxi province will kick off Friday’s opening ceremony.

(Editing by Keith Weir)

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