|Sound idea: British musician Joshua Kopecek had been living in Ha Noi for several years before it struck him that the city's sounds were a unique characteristic. — Photo courtesy etheriumsky.com
by Minh Thu
Ha Noi is a place that inspires Joshua Kopecek, a musician from the United Kingdom. After living in the capital city for several years, he realised that the unique characteristic of the place is its sounds.
Kopecek is an initiator of the Soundwalk project in Viet Nam which aims to find and use recordings that explain and evoke unseen aspects of places in Ha Noi. The project's participants wear headphones and walk along Ha Noi streets to listen to the historical sounds of the 1000-year-old city.
Kopecek holds a PhD in music from the University of Manchester, and his background is in experimental music and sound art as well as technology.
It was his wife who brought him to Viet Nam as he didn't have any inclination of coming here until it was suggested to him.
"Life in Viet Nam is multifaceted," Kopecek said. "It depends a lot on what angle you are looking at it from. Here, life is everything that I experience."
"A lot of my life revolves around music, such as giving piano lessons, composing for films, and studying and researching music, as well as playing in my spare time," he added. "I consider it still as my hobby because of my obsession with sound and music."
The Soundwalk project came to Kopecek through Prof Ricardo Climent, his music lecturer in Manchester. Climent organised one of the first global Soundwalks in Valencia in 2013.
"The Soundwalk is not a new concept, but we're taking it to a new level. I've been inspired by the possibilities of Soundwalks. We can create something really amazing to contribute to Viet Nam.
"Ha Noi's the most unique city in the field of sound. There are various sounds in the city, such as the voices of vendors calling, different forms of music being performed on the streets and the noise of vehicles," said Kopecek.
People often ask him why he chose Ha Noi and he replies that actually Ha Noi chose him. It's an inspiring place, from a sonic perspective.
Kopecek and his partners visited many cultural experts and Hanoians to talk about the city and his story. They found a lot of avenues for possible experimentation with sound and content for the Soundwalk project, launched for the first time last year.
"From hat xam (blind wanderers' music) to French archival recordings from colonial times, and an interview with an artist describing the history of Ha Noi's streets and hills, we had a huge range of content. The content this year is going to be even more exciting as the artists are really talented," he pointed out.
The project received a lot of public attention, which is why the organisers have returned to launch a bigger and better project this autumn, with the participation of composers Luong Hue Trinh and Hans Sydow (Denmark). Besides the city's sounds, the walkers will also enjoy music at the same time.
Kopecek said that Soundwalk will be developed into a creative ecosystem, where composers and sound artists can create Soundwalks for any location in the world.
"We're going to curate content and develop it so that anyone anywhere can access the content. Hopefully, the next time you travel somewhere, you'll be able to use the application and go on a Soundwalk experience!"
In Ha Noi, Kopecek also works as a piano teacher. He remarked that professional (classical) music training in Viet Nam does not have a standard as high as elsewhere in the world, but there are some members of the musical community here who are creating astounding music.
"I think music education really needs to improve in order to create great students, and it doesn't take much effort to get students interested in music," he said.
Kopecek pointed out that students often skip the arts in favour of more "practical" subjects at school. "Learning an instrument is the first part of that, and should be part of every child's education," he said.
Kopecek has a lot of friends in the music community here. In his opinion, the music scene in Ha Noi is very lively and there are always new musical projects going on, new bands being formed, new genres emerging and exciting things happening.
"I often can't keep up with the amount that's going on! I think Ha Noi is one of the most exciting places in this part of the world for music, and I hope that it continues to remain so," said Kopecek. — VNS