TAN DUN: The Martial Arts Trilogy. Music from Crouching Tiger,
Hidden Dragon, The Banquet, and Hero.
Yo-Yo Ma (cello); Lang Lang (piano); Itzhak Perlman (violin); Tan Dun
(violin); Kodo (drums); David Cossin (percussion); Archie Peña (percussion);
Dan Warner (guitar); Julio Hernández (bass guitar); Susan Botti
(vocals); Jane Lian Ying Chang (vocals); Shanghai National Orchestra/Chen
Xie Yang; Shanghai National Orchestra/Jorge Calandrelli; Shanghai Symphony
Orchestra, Shanghai Opera Chorus, Shanghai Percussion Ensemble, Ancient
Rao Ensemble of Changsha Museum, China Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorus/Tan
Sony 88697923532 TT: 47:35.
BUY NOW FROM ARKIVMUSIC
Lights! Camera! Z-z-z-z-z. Think back to the recent past when movie investors
decided to put real money into what had been known as chop-socky and
wire fu. We got at least two beautiful ones with production values,
and pretty good scripts. I saw both Crouching Tiger and Hero and both
blew me away with their stunning visuals and, at least in the first,
actors (Yun-Fat Chow and Michelle Yeoh, especially). The music was strictly
functional, remaining in the background. I was a bit surprised to learn
that Tan Dun composed it, even more surprised, from an aesthetic standpoint,
to learn that soundtrack albums had been released.
Make no mistake: good film music doesn't have to function well on its
own, although it's a bonus if it does. Conversely, good concert music
necessarily work in the context of a film. Tan Dun came up with good
film music that doesn't stand up to a hearing without the movie backing
Some of it is downright kitsch. In spots, it reminded me of Ennio Morricone's
scores for the spaghetti westerns, but without the enlivening fun. You
can listen to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly all on its own, just because
Morricone lets you in on the great time he has concocting the musical
equivalents of Kewpie dolls and G. I. Joe "action figures." Tan Dun is far
too solemn about it all, more like Celtic Woman rather than Queen.
Everything gets the super-luxe treatment, which places a heavy blanket
on not very interesting stuff in the first place. I fell asleep twice.
By the way, total timing on the disc is anybody's guess. Somehow the
coding claims 82 minutes, with a first track of about 3 minutes. If you
the second cut, the total drops to about 44. Despite the collaboration
of Ma, Perlman, and Lang, I suggest you give this gewgaw a miss. It's
just not good enough junk.
S.G.S. (October 2011)