Tan Hainu 2010 in Venice
» Biography Selbstbiografie
Tan Hainu is a Chinese-born American composer whose work fuses a multitude of global aesthetic styles to contribute to a responsible globalization of civilizations through the universal love and language of music.
» Musical influence
- Western Classical Music
- Medieval (500 – 1400)
- Renaissance (1400 – 1600)
- Baroque (1600 – 1760)
- Classical (1750 – 1830)
- Romantic (1815 – 1910)
- 20th century (1900 – 2000)
- 21st century (2000 – present)
- World Music
- Music of Africa
- Music of China
- Dynastic Era (1122 BCE – 1911)
- Republic of China era (1912 – 1949)
- People's Republic of China era (1949 – 1990s)
- Contemporary (1900 – present)
- Folk Music
- Instrumental Music
- Chinese Opera Music
- Music of India
- Classical Music
- Hindustani Music
- Carnatic Music
- Light Classical Music
- Folk Music
- Popular Music
- Music of the Arab World
- Maqam system
- More notes used than in Western scales
- Vocal traditions
- Instruments and ensembles
» Life Values
Tan Hainu in 2008
Interview with contemporary classical music composer Tan Hainu at California State University, Los Angeles with Los Angeles writer and interviewer Kerry West on May 11, 2008. Interest has been sparked by Tan’s recent appearance in International Talent Magazine, China’s prestigious publication concerning exceptional world involvement in foreign affairs.
K. W.: Tan Hainu. Let me ask you: What precisely attracted you to become a music composer?
T. H.: You know, a friend asked me one day, “Why do you compose music?” A stunning question as my friend could not see there might be a beneficial function of music such as there is in its answers to some of the largest questions that have forever plagued the human condition. What my friend was really asking was, “How useful is music to us?”
K.W.: Could you perhaps elaborate on this a little further? How does this work to achieve such a …………….
T. H.: Of first importance, there is a clear and hugely adaptive cultural contribution underlying every aspect of every culture that has ever existed. This is, of course, an aesthetic contribution, yet, beyond that, there is a universally acknowledged level of communication that music calls into being that functions quite automatically. In this consensus, the contribution itself also becomes automatic effective.
K. W.: Could you give us an example to help us clarify in what kind of conditions we might find esthetical music functioning?
T. H.: Put to the test, music functions reliably at events like music festivals or the Olympics as a social glue binding friendships between countries. If more countries held more international music festivals than those that now exist, then productive international relationships would increase. At the same time, for the international community, music festivals increase the peaceful spaces in the world, thus, decreasing the space left for things like wars.
K.W.: So, in this sense you are saying music is a powerful communicative mechanism. How, exactly, does this effect people?
T. H.: When people from different countries gather with purpose in a manner they can mutually comprehend – and often enough we have heard that music fits this category – they can learn from each other and begin to understand their cultural differences, absorbing the natural characteristics of the “other’s” culture.
K. W.: Simple enough I’d say. And, what is your part when pursuing this cultural exchange?
T. H.: Well! At the moment, I am getting ready to leave for Germany to attend lectures in music composition by a world class master which includes a final concert to exhibit the cultural values inherent in attendees’ music. I am bringing US based Western composition technique and also 5000 years of Chinese music history to share with the world. Yet, I will also be learning from the German knowledge base and will be bringing the attached cultural enrichment back. And it is not attached just with German aesthetics as this is an international event. I sometimes like to pretend I am a sort of cultural emissary specializing in music communication through a policy of cultural transnationalism. This is my way of pulling ever-tighter together the world community.
K.W.: Switching to another subject – and forgive my using a term others sometimes try to berate you with – but, I know many are interested in the impact economics have on cultural production. Could you give us your take on the impact for music composers?
T. H.: Around the world all music cultures are highly influenced by economics. This is unavoidable of course. Precisely, though, the lower a country’s economic power, the more natural it is for oral compositions, for folk music, that is. Written tradition is rarely an option under third world conditions. Oral tradition occurs as poorer countries really only have their own feelings to work into their music. They are purer in the sense of simplicity and uniqueness, and they wind up producing their own musical languages representing their specific real life situations. Even further, the numerous small towns we see in poorer lands have more special characteristics attached to their particular music aesthetical arrangements. The benefit rich countries enjoy is the larger financial cache that allows the continued refinement of existing music and, thus, the music becomes more uniform through the introduction of controlling standards. Rich countries even systemize music educational, creating academic disciplines that work to set the standards into stone, also dictating to the populace exactly what is proper.
K. W.: Our discussion, your philosophy, seems inevitably hard bent towards the larger, global perspective. This should signal an examination of the accompanying racial issues that we do have the tendency to avoid.
T. H.: When I look at faces I can describe the variety of music that would emanate from them, that is, if this were possible. All faces are different having characteristics that radiate specific effects relatable to music. Any of these facial features or characteristics can describe the feeling gathered from an instrument or a theoretical descriptive musical component. When I see eyes that are deeply inset and appear dependent upon the bone structure surrounding them, I see them flare with the sound of brass instruments such as trumpets. Very dark eyebrows, on another hand, radiate hard timpani strikes as opposed to lighter blond brows that tend to be more in harmony with facial skin. Racially, for me, everyone is the same as they can be musically described. At the same time, all people are unique, they are different, in that their color or their sound can be defined as if each were one of a kind, each a new musical piece.
K. W.: Tan. I understand you have a somewhat keen interest in world religions which I assume are somehow related to the production of your music. Would you mind elaborating a bit about this relationship?
T. H.: Certainly, but saying “keen” is perhaps an overstatement. But, yes, there is that relationship that inexorably binds music and religion. Different religions, of course, are associated with different music and we can recognize the religion by hearing its music. The function is extremely strong. Harmony & pitch & scale are the characteristic differences at play. I feel religions work to influence, and to occasionally inspire even my own compositions, and I can not help but to be interested in all religions. This, by the way, has led me to wonder how it would work to interconnect the variety of religious philosophies by recomposing and combining their individual music styles. I feel that, then, a musical combination could be produced to spotlight, or rather to incite awareness, of the common connections. What I am driving at is that manipulating the music in a way that promotes greater tolerance, should also reduce unnecessary religious conflict worldwide.
Tan Hainu in 2008
T.H.: Well, looking at all I have already said, I can tell you none of it can ever be realized without purposeful and ceaseless, bold-hearted volition. Another word for this is perseverance which clearly incorporates three maxims: you must entirely dedicate your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength, you must maintain diligence, and you must employ uninterruptible concentration on the task at hand. For example, any time we start a new piece, we should always consider ourselves as a beginner, for then, we will already expect to encounter difficulty. But, this must not be viewed negatively as a problem; rather it should be accepted as a necessary step and part of the process.
K.W.: Again, I would like to bring up the question of financial motivation and how it might affect perseverance.
T. H: To tell the truth, once we choose to become a composer, our minds are not going to think of what we will gain. It’s really about how adamantly focused we are about how we want to spend our lives. Music composition is such an exceedingly complicated project, that it is quite difficult to consider creating a work with intentions of profit. Such a connection ultimately should not exist, at least not directly, as composing itself is already so involved that it does not even leave room to completely deal with all it already entails.
K.W.: Tan. Please, if you would, give us a word on risk. How would you describe some of the problems that music composers might face?
T.H.: This is actually too large a request to fulfill at this time, but, since we were talking about perseverance I shall at least relate back to this. The number of steps as well as the number of permeations of these steps in the process for composing music is incredible; yet, a successful composer does have to conquer them all. This is a big reason why without perseverance the chances to falter are too great and can only lead to an artist’s fall and loss of direction. This is about very strict dedication. The benefit, though, falls into the spirit of the process. Bottom line is we know why we exist here. As composers, we know precisely who we are.
K.W.: Tan. It is time to close our interview, but I am compelled to finally ask you one last thing, and that would be to offer a word, any word, about what the larger, higher level meaning of all we have discussed means. I am practically asking you in the sense of, if you will, the meaning of life. Oh! I see you are grinning.
T. H.: Yes. Such a dilemma this question so often creates. But I do have a quick answer for you. Supposing, for instance, we used music to communicate with beings on other planets. I am referring to the idea of presenting ourselves, the human species, to the universe. This is actually a quest for the yet unknown, for exploration. I believe the system and style of music composition technique can still be explored and the open spaces for exploration are unlimited. The more we explore the more values we find within ourselves.