- Joanna C. Lee
(b Simao, Hunan Province, Aug 18, 1957). American composer of Chinese birth. Growing up during the Cultural Revolution, he received no schooling or early musical training. For several years he planted rice in a commune. After working as a violinist and arranger at the local opera theatre in Beijing, he was admitted at the age of 19 to the composition department of the newly reopened Central Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Zhao Xindao and Li Yinghai and encountered Western classical music for the first time. As the restrictions of the Cultural Revolution were lifted, Tan and his fellow students discovered a wide range of formerly suppressed 20th-century music, from Bartók and Schoenberg to Boulez; they were also stimulated by visits from a number of guest composers, including Goehr, Crumb, Henze, Takemitsu and Yun. Tan soon became recognized as the leading composer of the Chinese ‘New Wave’, the generation of artists, writers and composers that came to prominence in the new atmosphere of cultural pluralism in the early 1980s. As such his music aroused much debate and political controversy: for a brief period in ...