Ghost Opera

Tan Dun


“Key among the achievements of the Kronos Quartet has been the exponential expansion of string quartet repertoire by commissioning new works far and wide. But it is the very far-and-wide aspect that accounts for their other notable success: bringing the voices of international composers into what has traditionally been a western classical organism. One such example is Chinese composer Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera, a fascinating ambi-cultural piece… seamlessly bringing together assorted emotive qualities and global cultural instincts: we hear snippets of Baroque, of traditional Chinese music and atonal sonic colors, as from a unique palette that knows no boundaries.”

Josef Woodward, JazzTimes

About the album

In composing Ghost Opera, Tan was inspired by childhood memories of the shamanistic “ghost operas” of the Chinese peasant culture. “My whole village was crazy,” Tan Dun told Brooke Gladstone for the liner notes of the album. “We had a professional crying team available for hire at funerals and deaths… a shamanistic choir to set the mournful tone. In Hunan, where I grew up, people believed they would be rewarded for their sufferings after death. Death was the ‘white happiness,’ and musical rituals launched the spirit into the territory of the new life. Instruments were improvised: pots and pans, kitchen tools and bells. The celebration of the remote was grounded in everyday life… The tradition of ‘ghost opera’ is thousands of years old. The performer of ‘ghost opera’ has a dialogue with his past and future life – a dialogue between past and future, spirit and nature.”


Kronos Quartet
David Harrington, violin, water bowl, bowed gong, vocals, one-stringed lute, cymbals, stones
John Sherba, violin, paper whistle, vocals, cymbals, stones, one-stringed lute, bowed gong, waterbowl
Hank Dutt, viola, vocals, cymbals, stones, bowed gong, water bowl
Joan Jeanrenaud, cello, vocals, bowed gong, water bowl

Wu Man, pipa, soprano voice, vocals, bowed gong, tam-tam, Tibetan bells, paper

Produced by Judith Sherman
Executive Producer: Robert Hurwitz

Ghost Opera
for String Quartet and Pipa
with water, stones, paper, and metal

Music, text, and installation by Tan Dun

  1. Act I. Bach, Monks, and Shakespeare Meet in Water
  2. Act II. Earth Dance
  3. Act III. Dialogue with “Little Cabbage”
  4. Act IV. Metal and Stone
  5. Act V. Song of Paper

Released by Nonesuch Records



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