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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Tan Dun

Performed by:
The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

The Shanghai National Orchestra

The Shanghai Percussion Ensemble

Cello Solos by:
Yo-Yo Ma

Co-Produced by:
Steven Epstein

Sony Classical

Release Date:
November 14th, 2000

Also See:
Electric Shadows (Zhao Jiping)
Seven Years in Tibet

Audio Clips:
2. The Eternal Vow (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

6. To the South (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

8. The Encounter (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

12. Sorrow (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

Regular U.S. release.

  The score was the winner of an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, and a BAFTA Award, nominated as well for a Golden Globe. The song "A Love Before Time" was also nominated for an Academy Award and a Grammy Award.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
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Buy it... if you seek a score that is truly authentic in its presentation of Eastern musical traditions and features just enough Western romanticism to create some crossover appeal.

Avoid it... if you're curious about the score simply because of the hype generated by its many fans and its Oscar win, for Tan Dun's largely sparse and repetitive work remains highly overrated.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: (Tan Dun) Receiving critical and popular praise from nearly every corner of the globe after its wide release in late 2000, director Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon built up formidable momentum as the season of annual awards drew near, eventually striking Oscar gold. The film's premise involves two female warriors in 19th Century China, contemplating and acting upon love, honor, and sorrow. Rather than write the film off as a Chinese costume drama, it's important to understand the historical reasons for the film's intense fighting sequences. These scenes, showing the warriors making extraordinary physical leaps, were awkward at the time, though a better appreciation of the fantasy element has afforded Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (and its contemporaries) a better place in the history of films across the entire world's stage. Lee's films have always evoked a sharp artistic edge in their music, and his choices for composers in the past had included Patrick Doyle and Mychael Danna. For this project, he decided to employ one of China's most popular concert, classical, and opera composers, Tan Dun, who had also produced scores for a handful of American films at the time (though none of immense success). In the East, Dun had been in the news for the concert he composed and arranged by the name of "Symphony 1997," commemorating the return of control of Hong Kong to China. A collaborator on his past concert works (including "Symphony 1997"), cellist Yo-Yo Ma was a consistent performer for Dun, and most Western film score collectors recognized his name due to his haunting performances for John Williams' Seven Years in Tibet (also in 1997). Despite Dun's Academy Award win for this score, upsetting Hans Zimmer's far more popular Gladiator, the composer did not maintain the kind of career in mainstream film scoring that this early success had promised. Ma, on the other hand, would. Together, Ang Lee's all-around Chinese approach to his personnel, together with Dun's styles, created an ethnically precise Eastern score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon that remains highly regarded today.

For purely Western ears, Dun's music will present a challenge. Because of the inherent subtlety of Eastern music of the period, there are no sweeping themes for characters or grand rhythms for fight scenes. There is a set of motifs utilized throughout the score, as well as a pair of memorable themes that Dun refers to frequently, but not obviously. Instead, Dun correctly tackles the project with an underscore that strikes a balance between minimalistic care and muted ethnic romance. While not establishing itself early as the primary theme of the film, the longing romantic tone of the string idea in "The Eternal Vow" becomes the score's overarching identity, eventually translating into the obligatory song performance. This theme's beauty is often betrayed, though, by the strained tone of its performances, especially on Ma's part. The score is taut with tension throughout, its melodies brooding in sparse strings while percussive elements set the basic tone and style of the music's sense of movement. There is nothing flashy about Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; even with its fantasy elements, Dun's lyrical impressions are repetitious and rely on the elevated diversity of its own instrumentation to succeed. The cello solos by Ma are very good, as to be expected, but the melodies he performs offer only hint of convincing depth; the extreme upper ranges of the instrument aren't particularly attractive. The rest of the score is dominated by inconsistent string motifs, occasional blasts of brass in unison, and the stunning array of specialty instrumentation. The two-stringed erhu is perhaps the most recognizable aspect of traditional Chinese music, and its use is almost constant. Dun adds the bawu, dizi, rawap, and lesser-known waterphone for an almost mystical effect in a handful of sequences. The drum performances of "Night Fight" offer one of the only extended, intrusive moments of stylistic distance in the score. The equally shallow "To the South" merges percussion with solo woodwind in an equally plain soundscape. Together, these elements all create a dissonance in the style of classical composer Toru Takemitsu, requiring a careful appreciation of subtle tension in the music for it to blossom.

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For any typical collector of Western movie music, the score for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on album could prove even more problematic. The composer doesn't hit distinct synchronization points, thus allowing the recording to take on the structure of a series of suites. As such, Dun's composition can very well be treated as a concert piece in its construct, relying heavily on its intense solo performances and intimate treatment of traditional Eastern music. While underlying Western romanticism is easily evident, the unsettling repetition of motifs using the Eastern instrumentation causes the score to remain just out of reach. The repetition itself becomes a detriment at times as well, with several passages being largely redundant. The effectiveness of the music in the film is not really to be questioned, but had the movie been scored by Zhao Jiping, whose career emphasis rests on Chinese film music rather than concert works, then the translation of that material to album may have proven to be more accessible. While the music never becomes intolerably burdened by its own repetitions and defeated attitude, the album is awkwardly disturbing, if not depressing. Regardless of that emotional tone, the score is a piece that should be well received in concert even if it fails to ultimately gain the admiration of many Americans. The song performed in English and Mandarin by CoCo Lee at the end of the album uses the melody of the theme in "The Eternal Vow," though it goes against the fundamental sound of Dun's score, inserting an easily marketable pop song interpretation to boost unit sales. Ironically, because the song boasts a translation of that Eastern romanticism into a Western rock band ensemble, it might be better received by more listeners. Lee's voice is certainly appealing, even if the now-dated synthetic accompaniment is disappointing. Also of note about the album is the seemingly long pause inserted between each track, causing an occasional break of mood. Overall, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the type of score that wins Western awards because of the critical success of its film, and even though it proved to be too strong a contender for its Oscar competition, it remains a significantly overrated work that, regardless of cultural style, isn't the crossover powerhouse that many claim it to be. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 Track Listings: Total Time: 50:13

• 1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (3:24)
• 2. The Eternal Vow (3:01)
• 3. A Wedding Interrupted (2:16)
• 4. Night Flight (3:10)
• 5. Silk Road (3:08)
• 6. To the South (2:21)
• 7. Through the Bamboo Forest (4:23)
• 8. The Encounter (2:40)
• 9. Desert Capriccio (4:33)
• 10. In the Old Temple (3:46)
• 11. Yearning of the Sword (3:34)
• 12. Sorrow (4:02)
• 13. Farewell (2:25)
• 14. A Love Before Time (English) - performed by CoCo Lee (3:45)
• 15. A Love Before Time (Mandarin) - performed by CoCo Lee (3:38)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains English lyrics for the song, but no extra information about the film or score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are Copyright © 2000, Sony Classical. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 12/18/00 and last updated 9/27/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2000-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.