Text collage created by the composer from Lao-Tzu (604-531 BC), Lord Tennyson (1809-92), William Wordsworth (1770-1850), the Bible, Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) and Li Po (699-762)
2000 Today: A World Symphony for the Millenium (1999)
How does one celebrate this moment in time – the first step into a new century – that seems to haunt our collective psyche? One international consortium of television broadcasters led by the BBC, ABC, PBS, and CNN, including several others, had a particularly inspired idea: to transmit via satellite and over 55 networks worldwide a millennium program, beginning at the midnight hour in the pacific island of Tanga and tracking zero hour as it progressed westward across the globe through each of the 24-time zones. Never before attempted in broadcast history, such a feat is only truly worthy of the millennium. As part of the global celebration, composer Tan Dun was commissioned to write the joyful 2000 Today: A World Symphony for the Millennium.
Although Tan’s music is renowned for its spiritual and meditative qualities, he has increasingly embraced a more global perspective in his oeuvre. With 2000 Today, he introduces the innovative concept of a “mosaic” symphony. Most notable are 2000 Today’s use of two contrasting orchestras: one consisting of classical Western instruments, chorus, and soprano soloist while the other of world instruments, creating “primitive” and natural sounds like those imitating shooting stars. Such instruments as the thundering East Asian Ohdaiko and the pattering Middle Eastern tar make up a rich percussion section. Throughout, the sounds of clacking stones and cascading water (or, alternately, icy freezing water) embody important sonic elements in 2000 Today, as they represent to Tan the nascent beginnings of earth’s creation and its ongoing living journey.
Serving as the centerpiece of the symphony’s mosaic form is an easily recognizable ‘chant’ – a gently lush ascending theme first heard at the beginning in the strings then running through every movement. It has the flavors of an ancient scale, an Indian raga, and a gamelan melody. Various counterpointed musical material is added to the chant to capture the poetic spirit of the world’s different regions. In the finale, Tan blends the chant and all its counterpoints into a “Unity.” With a sense of inevitability, the chant musically unifies the earth’s cultures as one, and in a special culminating anthem, the Gipsy Kings and Ziggy Marley come together for Bob Marley’s reggae classic "One Love," singing about a world united by love.