October, 17 2012 09:21:43

Culture Vulture (Oct. 17 2012)


(VNS) Composer Dang Huu Phuc has won many prizes for his film scores at domestic and international film festivals. His profound knowledge of Vietnamese folk music and culture along with his established record of success has seen him become much sought-after by movie directors. He talks about his career.

What is reason for you to write scores?

Creating music is my job. I started writing film scores to earn money. I think many composers writing scores to earn a living, but it can be a hobby as well.

However, I do not love writing scores. I get more satisfaction from writing independent compositions. Scores today do not make a contribution to the development of music. Most are produced with electronic tools and have a lack of ideas. In Viet Nam, it is difficult to record ten musicians playing at the same time. Studios have been designed for three musicians only, so you have to work with that. Normally, movie producers will not invest in an orchestra because of the high cost.

Do you think writing a score takes as much time and effort now for professional writers as it used to?

It took me about five months to write the score for Thoi Xa Vang (A Distant Past), which won the award at the Shanghai International Film Festival in 2005. That wouldn't happen these days. Writing scores has become an industrialised process. Most of scores now are created very quickly.

When I was among the jurors at a recent annual awards of the Viet Nam Cinematography Association, I could not give the best score award to a nominee as he told me that he had just downloaded the music from the internet and paid royalties.

Nowadays a score is a kind of commodity. It is not a creation. It can be thrown away after being used, it leaves no cultural impression.

A graduate from a musical academy is qualified to write a music piece. Like studying in a literature school, we learn how structure an essay or imagine a character. The problem is that everything taught at school has been tried many times before by many people. An artist always needs to create new things.

Nobody can teach truly how to compose a musical work. It requires experiment. A score writer must find his/her own way. It is quite different from writing a song.

Is it necessary to have a song in a movie ?

Movies in Viet Nam and other countries often have a main song as a way of adding publicity. Many classics have gone without though. For example, the Italian movie Life is Beautiful did not contain a song but it still won the hearts of audiences from all over the world.

Often films have a song as a centrepiece to keep up with the demands of popular entertainment. Take for example the song My Heart Will Go On from the movie Titanic. It is not special but it is very well-known and has been successful due to many things. It instantly brings back memories of the film. It cannot stand alone. If someone listens to the song without seeing Titanic I think they would be unimpressed.

The score on the other hand is vital in making a movie enjoyable and touching. Cinema is a comprehensive art which is supported a great deal by the music.

What problems do you see in writing score in Viet Nam?

The problem is often with the writers, whose work is not art. But it is also the case that directors don't care much about composers' ability. They just want to work with new composers who have released a few songs. Paying emerging writers is also cheaper than hiring established people. This situation is upsetting for professional writers.

I think a lot of composers want to work on films just for the money. Sometimes, I have said I don't want to use my name in the introductory credits as I do not want to be directly associated with the project as it is not something I feel passionate about. The director usually insists that I use my real name though as it is well-known. It is very difficult. At present I am not interested in writing scores anymore, I want to enjoy working on my own projects.

Is your score for the award-winning movie Thoi Xa Vang your best work?

The success of that came from blending different traditional Vietnamese music genres such as folk, chau van (spiritual singing accompanying mediumship ritual) and the northern style of cheo (traditional opera).

The score inspired a lot of people because all the music was quintessentialy Vietnamese. I always try to use traditional music when I am writing scores, but it depends on the movie's subject.

Thoi Xa Vang is about rural Vietnamese life, so I had the freedom to use influences from traditional music. — VNS

Send Us Your Comments:
Your E-mail address:

VietNamNews may edit your comments and not all emails will be published.


Mountains of coal sludge still threat to lives in Quang Ninh Mountains of coal sludge still threat to lives in Quang Ninh

Wiping sweat from his forehead, 36-year-old Trinh Duc Sang took big strides along a road covered with muddy coal sludge and dirt to the place that was his home until just three weeks ago. He climbed a rickety ladder that buckled under his weight to reach his neigh-bour's house overlooking a creek. From there, he crossed into his old home.

Doctors treat patients for free at clinic in Ha Noi Doctors treat patients for free at clinic in Ha Noi

For more than 20 years, Dang Thi Nhan, 67, has been waking up about 30 minutes earlier each day to bake cakes or prepare tea for two retired doctors in a clinic near her house in Ha Noi's Giap Bat Ward.

Wounds begin to heal between US, Viet Nam 1    Wounds begin to heal between US, Viet Nam

Pham Ba Lu swore thousands of times that he "would not live under the same sky as the United States".

Water resources, eroding land need saving Water resources, eroding land need saving

Water management has become a major topic of discussion in recent years among Viet Nam's lawmakers, experts and society. The country has been struggling to deal with water-related issues such as a rising sea level, land subsidence and saline intrusion in the Mekong Delta. Lawmakers and experts shared their views on water management with Viet Nam News reporters Thu Van and Hoang Anh.


    Outlook Viet Nam News Monthly Publication


    Sunday Việt Nam News The National English Language Daily