The country's first training course in contemporary experimental music promises to form a new generation of musicians. The course was the fruit of co-operation between the Viet Nam National Academy of Music, Domdom (the hub for Experimental Art and Music), Sweden's Malmoe Academy of Music and Ars Nova Ensemble. Musician Tran Kim Ngoc, head of Domdom, spoke to Culture Vulture:
What is the idea behind the project?
Here in Viet Nam, we lack a foundation for the formation and development of contemporary experimental music. While experimental music has been mentioned in the media for a certain period of time, it hasn't yet developed to its full potential. Scattered experimental music performances have been organised spontaneously but often lack depth and uniqueness. This is primarily due to the lack of a contemporary music training programme in the national education system, as well as the State and society's indifference to fostering this genre.
With that in mind, I created the country's first hub for experimental art and music. Domdom's coming activities are Creative Platform, a playing field for young musicians, and the Ha Noi New Music Festival, to be held in December – the first-ever international experimental music festival in Viet Nam. The ongoing courses focus on electronic music and impromptu performances. Next year, the impromptu performance course will continue with lecturers from Denmark, Viet Nam and Germany. Workshops with musicians from Southeast Asia and courses on the history and aesthetics of contemporary music are in the works. We plan to bring lecturers from different areas of the world.
What is the purpose and direction of the experimental music training programme in the long run?
We aim to help create a new generation of contemporary experimental musicians.
Hopefully we can organise advanced training courses in the next years, add more basic disciplines and expand the activities mentioned above so students can acquire the necessary skills and knowledge of contemporary experimental music and get the chance to work with their international counterparts. At the Ha Noi New Music Festival (December 1-8), Vietnamese students will work with famous musicians from around the world. There will also be a night performance especially designed for students.
Hundreds of students registered to join the course, but less than twenty actually participated. What does that mean?
That was the result of natural selection on both sides. We organisers used our own criteria to single out the 18 best for each class. Then students eliminated themselves during the training process. If they didn't enjoy it, they left.
If we want to understand a plant, we should examine the seeds that have sprouted, not those that due to whatever reason will never sprout. So look at our graduates, not our dropouts. The youngest is just 16 years old. Witness their confident performance of this unique music genre, and you will understand the pride and hope that are silently flowing in my heart.
What benefits do graduates enjoy?
They will find their own persona and the most efficient language to express themselves as real artists. They will also build a foundation to pursue higher education abroad. It's not like a degree provided by the Malmoe Academy of Music or the Viet Nam National Academy. It's a door they themselves can open to the international future with their own inner strength.
How does the training compare to what's offered in developed countries like Sweden?
All the material covered in the training course is included in the official syllabus of music academies in developed countries.
Could you briefly discuss the co-operation with Malmoe and Ars Nova?
I felt lucky to partner with the Ars Nova Ensemble and Malmoe Academy of Music, who really share the vision and ambition to develop this music genre.
This partnership also does good for their development in the future, as we are living in a flat world where everyone is seeking to learn from other cultures. The co-operation will give rise to new forms of culture. — VNS