1. The Object of Inquiry

The aim of this essay is to examine briefly the nature and history of tân nhạc, a kind of music that has been very much at the center of Vietnamese public life from the time of its first strong emergence in the country in the late 1930s up to the present day. The syllables that make up the expression tân nhạc come from Chinese. Tân (pronounced xīn in Mandarin Chinese) means « new, » and nhạc (yuè in Mandarin) means « music. »[1] Tân nhạc, or « new music, » is characterized by its creators as music based on procedures used in the West, but the term covers a broad spectrum of styles, including many which evolved from Southeast Asian and Chinese, as well as Western, sources. Its best singers use techniques, such as off-tone quavering and microtonal adornment, that cannot be represented on a Western five-line staff, and its instruments are just as likely to be monochords (đàn bầu), vertically held Chinese violins (erhu), or bamboo flutes as they are to be cellos or saxophones. Pentatonic scales are as common in tân nhạc as diatonic scales, and the pentatonicism one encounters there is often characterized by unstable or distinctively pitched notes that one doesn’t hear in pentatonic music from other regions, such as China. Tân nhạc is frequently less wedded to binary phrase patterns—tunes made up of groups of eight, sixteen, and thirty-two measures—than either Western popular or Chinese popular music. Tân nhạc is widely accessible in live performances, CDs, audiotapes, videos, and printed scores. To procure examples in the U.S., one has only to go to any Vietnamese grocery store and pick through the display of CDs and videos inside. Hundreds of composer-lyricists and thousands of singers have devoted their careers to the production of tân nhạc.

Tân nhạc shades off into many other areas of cultural activity, such as folk music, traditional opera, spoken drama, movies, journalism, poetry, fiction, historical legend, religion, philosophy, and politics. Its significance, both as an outlet for the views and feelings of the populace and as an instrument through which those views and feelings can be influenced, is generally recognized. In the early 1970s, for example, President Thiệu of the Vietnamese Republic in South Việt Nam made it illegal to give public performances of a particular song about an extinct nationality[2] because he believed that it possessed a malign supernatural influence that might lead to the loss of the republic to the forces of the North. His thinking was in accord with the Chinese concept of wáng guó zhī yīn (vọng quốc chi âm in Vietnamese), « music that causes the downfall of a state. » Việt Nam’s Northern Communist rulers, on the other hand, were convinced that the performance of sad, sexy love songs with long, winding melodic phrases in minor tonalities (referred to as nhạc vàng, « yellow music »), would weaken the moral fiber and fighting spirit of the citizenry, and so they banned the performance and publication of such music and insisted that « happy comrade songs » (my term) be promulgated instead. People continued, however, to cultivate nhạc vàng in private settings, because this music was the true voice of the perceptions and feelings of most Vietnamese people.

Tân nhạc consists almost entirely of vocal music organized in the form of single, titled songs, or in the case of a few composers, most notably the prolific and multifaceted Phạm Duy, as cycles of songs on particular themes. Such instrumental pieces as do exist are almost all arrangements of songs, though in some cases a reasonable attempt is made to enrich the texture of an arrangement so as to give it a more instrumental character. That tân nhạc should be predominately vocal is entirely what one would expect, as the sources of tân nhạc—indigenous folk music, Vietnamese traditional opera, Western popular music, etc. were all predominantly vocal as well.

Tân nhạc songs are in general the result of the combined creativity of four people: the tune composer, the lyricist, the arranger, and the singer, though it is of course possible for two or more of these functions to be combined in a single figure. The tune composer and the lyricist are in fact usually the same person (though composers may also set existing poems to music, or rely on others for lyrics). The lyrics are thought to make an important contribution to the effect of a song, and much effort is expended on their cultivation. Most tân nhạc composers are thus poets as well as composers, and two of the most well-known, Phạm Duy and Trịnh Công Sơn, are as admired for their verbal inventions as for their melodies. As in Western popular music, the instrumental arranger is usually a person different from the tune composer, and his sensitivity, or lack of it, can have a profound influence on the artistic value of the outcome. Examples of very distinguished and very vulgar arrangements both abound in tân nhạc. Singers also are of prime importance to the artistic outcome of a performance, as the nature of their ornamentation and the way they adjust the rhythm of their delivery to the pulse of the accompaniment can greatly enhance the value of a song.[3] The people involved in the production of tân nhạc tend to approach their work in an extremely focused and serious—even a quasi-religious—manner, as if it were high art. The refinement and sensitivity to which this seriousness gives rise are often pleasing in the extreme. Audiences also tend to attribute high artistic value to various periods, genres, and composers within tân nhạc.

Thematically, the three most common types of songs in tân nhạc are (1) songs that express a cosmic yearning for a homeland that is tragically inaccessible, (2) songs that express a cosmic yearning for a love relationship that is tragically inaccessible, (3) songs that express a cosmic yearning for a beautiful time in the past that is tragically inaccessible.[4] Vietnamese listeners, one sometimes feels, are never totally content until their music is totally tragic.

In addition to the above types there are two smaller thematic categories: (4) songs that consist of morose or terrifying reflections on the human condition viewed from a cosmic perspective,[5] and (5) nhạc vui or fun music. Within this last category are three subtypes: (a) humorous songs—these typically feature rural horseplay, akin to slapstick, and borrowings from folk culture, though there are also a few humorous songs in urban settings, (b) TEAC5t or Lunar New Year songs celebrating the return of spring, and (c) party or razzle-dazzle music.[6] Tân nhạc songs that have nothing to do with any of the aforementioned categories are rare enough to be viewed as interesting exceptions.

2. Phases in the Development of Tân Nhạc

The first known piece of tân nhạc was written in 1911 by Ðoàn Quang Ðạt, a Vietnamese Catholic priest; it was called « Nửa Ðêm Mừng Chúa Ra Ðời, » or « Feelings of Gratitude in the Middle of the Night at Our Lord’s Appearance in the World. »[7] I have not yet had an opportunity to hear this piece; I am told by Vietnamese informants, however, that it is a well thought-out composition that is still performed from time to time, particularly during the Christmas season.

Tân nhạc was first produced in quantity in the years following 1936, when French popular songs, perhaps due to the advent of radio, began to exert a strong influence on Vietnamese urban culture. In the later 1930s it suddenly became fashionable for Vietnamese singers to perform French songs with Vietnamese lyrics. Contemporary French songs that were given this treatment included « Un Bateau, » « Santa Lucia, » « Guitare d’Amour, » and « Une Chanson Pour Nina. » The singers were generally stars of traditional opera who hastily acquired new sets of skills and habits so as to sing the new music. Within a year of the appearance of this phenomenon, intellectuals who were alarmed at the prospect of Việt Nam turning into a mere cultural appendage of the West began calling upon native composers to write songs in the new style, so that popular music might continue to serve as an embodiment of the national soul. Vietnamese musicians were not backward in responding to this call to action, and the result was the first great flood of creativity in this medium; it lasted from 1936 to 1945 and is now referred to as nhạc tiền chiến or « prewar music. »[8]

Many Vietnamese have such a strong emotional attachment to music of this period that in their vocabulary the phrase nhạc tiền chiến has virtually the same meaning as « good music. » It is certainly true that a remarkably high number of fine songs date from that era. This may be due to the fact that, in the late thirties and early forties, tân nhạc was not yet a widely popular medium; old people and rural people were still more comfortable with folk music and opera. Thus composers and consumers of tân nhạc in that era tended to be people with unusually finely attuned musical antennae. One result of the later popularization of tân nhạc in the fifties and subsequent decades was a flood of trashy songs, but the existence of this trash has never inhibited the production of good work, which has continued steadily to the present day.

Composers in the prewar period wrote songs of many types, including love-and-separation songs, songs expressing local patriotism, and treatments of popular legends and myths. The music tends to be delicate and introspective and to have metaphysical overtones. A prototypical prewar composer was Ðặng Thế Phong, a man from Nam Ðịnh who died of tuberculosis at the age of 23. He wrote two songs in 1940, both in natural minor modes and with unusual stanzaic structures, that have remained securely in the repertoire: « Thuyến Không Bến » (« A Boat without a Landing ») and « Giọt Mùa Thu » (« Raindrops in Autumn »). Another important figure who got his start in this era was Dương Thiệu Tước, a Hawaiian guitar virtuoso from Huế who in the late 1930s ran a musical instrument shop in Hà Nội. He wrote two songs based on folk melodies that have remained touchstones of the melisma of the central region in Việt Nam: « Ðêm Tàn Bến Ngự » (« Night Dispersing at the Boatlanding at Ngự ») and « Tiếng Xưa » (« Sounds of Former Days »). The central style favors major tonalities, long floating phrases, and a feeling of cosmic serenity, even when dealing with tragic themes. Another very fine early composer was Văn Cao, who in the tiền chiến period wrote long, ambitious pieces imbued with nature mysticism, such as « Suối Mơ » (« The Dim Spring ») and « Thiên Thai » (« The Other World »). Many often-sung songs from this period (such as « Mẹ Tôi, » « My Mother, » by Nhị Hạ and « Tình Quê, » « Feeling for One’s Native Land » by Phạm Ngữ) seem to be the only surviving examples of the work of the now-unknowable figures who wrote them.

The prewar period was followed by the French resistance period, lasting from 1945 to the defeat of the French at Ðiện Biên Phủ in 1954. In this period, patriotic tân nhạc songs became an important means of motivating students to leave their studies in the cities and join the Việt Minh forces in the countryside. Love songs became rare and expressions of patriotic and military fervor came to the fore, along with songs on the tragedies and suffering of warfare. In the first half of this period particularly, Vietnamese throughout the country were quite unanimous in their adoption of these themes; there was no division of outlook, as later appeared between the North and the South; people in all segments of society considered it their duty to join or assist the Việt Minh in ousting the French. It was during this period that the songs that later became the national anthems of the Northern and Southern regimes were written: « Tiến Quân Ca, » « Song of the Advancing Troops, » by Văn Cao became, with some adjustment of lyrics, the anthem of the socialist regime, while « Tiếng Gọi Thanh Niên, » « A Call to Youth, » by Lưu Hữu Phước became, with altered words, the anthem of the Southern republic under the title « Công Dán, » or « Citizens. »[9]

It was also in this period that Phạm Duy (b. 1921), the most prolific, varied, and influential of all the tân nhạc composers, came into his own, with a series of famous examples of resistance music produced while living in primitive Việt Minh base camps. These included such songs as « Chiến Sĩ Vô Danh » (« The Unknown Warrior ») and « Xuất Quân » (« Sending Forth the Troops »). Phạm Duy grew up in Hà Nội but came to hear and study the folk music of all the regions of Việt Nam during his years of touring the land with an opera troupe in the early 1940s. His music is too diverse in style and mood to be amenable to descriptive labeling; one can say, however, that his music very often is imbued with a strong, affirmative, optimistic spirit that one can recognize as belonging more to the composer himself than to the tân nhạc tradition as a whole. Disdaining to write music of an exclusively military or political character, Phạm Duy also wrote love songs during the resistance period, and songs in folk idioms about the suffering and sacrifices of the people in wartime. When Phạm Duy noticed in 1950 that the Việt Minh were preparing to control and channel the output of artists and intellectuals, he ran away to Hà Nội with his family and then settled with them in Sài Gòn. The Việt Minh and its successor, the present government of Việt Nam, has never forgiven Phạm Duy and continues to forbid public performances of his music, which is nevertheless known, loved, and sung by the entire population of the country. Now a resident of Orange County, California, Phạm Duy has produced a four-volume set of memoirs that is filled with information about the history of tân nhạc.[10]

The « Resistance War » era was followed by the period of internal North-South division, lasting from 1954 to 1975. The history of tân nhạc followed separate courses in the two regions during this period. Some composers who had fought or worked with the Việt Minh during the Resistance era remained in the North, while others who wished to avoid ideological control, such as Phạm Duy, settled in the South. In the north, music on themes related to ethnic or national patriotism was promulgated, while romantic and nostalgic music was strongly discouraged. Văn Cao, one of the finest composers of the prewar and resistance eras, responded to the new environment by becoming an alcoholic and lapsing into artistic inactivity. On the positive side, the Northern government gave opportunities to some musicians to study at conservatories in the USSR and Eastern-bloc countries. One Northern tân nhạc composer, Hoàng Việt, spent about eight years studying composition, theory, and orchestration in Sophia, Bulgaria, and in 1965 completed the first Vietnamese symphony. In four movements, the work was entitled « Quê Hương » (« Homeland »). The composer died in battle in 1968, before he could complete a second symphony. During the period of intensified fighting with American and ARVN forces, there came into being a type of music aimed at raising the spirits of Northern fighters in the South; this was known as nhạc Trường Sơn, after the Trường Sơn mountain range that Northern soldiers had to cross on their way to the South. Songs in this genre enjoyed considerable popularity and are still listened to in Việt Nam as a nostalgic reminder of a former era. The quality of this music is in general not high, but a number of composers who later did distinguished work (Hoàng Hiệp, Ðỗ Nhuận) were involved in its production.

The musical environment in the South during the Division era was much richer than in the North. It can be subdivided into three phases: the Ngô Ðình Diệm years (1954-1963), the mid-sixties (1963-1968), and the « American years » (1968-1975). Teahouses in which tân nhạc singers were the main attraction proliferated in the late fifties and early sixties in the South; that was in direct response to an edict of Diệm’s banning the dance halls (vũ trường) that had previously been one of the prime venues for tân nhạc. Many forms of Western popular music were introduced or adapted in this period, including jazz and such dance genres as the cha-cha, the tango, the mambo, the samba, and so on. New composers such as Hoàng Thi Thơ and Lam Phương appeared, who wrote both folk-inspired and Western pop-inspired music. Many operatic singers began doubling as tân nhạc singers. There was a flourishing tân nhạc recording industry that had begun in the late 1940s with 78-rpm recordings. A vigorous cinematic industry appeared, in which the actors and actresses were all singers and tân nhạc songs were prominently featured.[11] Phạm Duy completed the first of his song cycles, « Con Ðường Cái Quan » (« The Mandarin Road »), consisting of nineteen songs in three sections headed « Từ Miền Bắc » (« From the Northern Region »), « Qua Miền Trung » (« Crossing through the Central Region »), and « Vào Miền Nam » (« Entering the Southern Region »). Begun in Paris in 1954, it was finished in 1960 when Phạm Duy made a trip from Sài Gòn to Quảng Trị, the northernmost of the southern provinces. The idea behind it was to affirm the cultural unity of Việt Nam and protest the political division of the country into North and South.[12]

The mid-sixties were marked by the appearance of many new singers and composers, the return of the dance hall as a venue for tân nhạc performances, the beginnings of tân nhạc on TV, an increased emphasis on romance (mainly romantic loss), the efflorescence of songs about the sacrifices and sadness of soldiers (called nhạc yêu lính, « love-soldier music »), experimentation with new Western genres such as rock and roll and folk-rock, and by a certain tendency toward hedonism. Singers were much idolized and written about in the media. The listening public wanted to know every detail, especially the scandalous details, about the private lives of the singers they admired. When the singer Thái Thanh lost her voice for about a year due to a throat illness in the mid-fifties, the public followed her condition day by day and offered prayers for her recovery.[13]

During the American years in the South (1968-1975) a new generation of singers appeared who got their start entertaining American military personnel. One such singer, a tenor with the stage name of Elvis Phương, began in this period as a rock-performing Elvis Presley imitator but has since evolved into a serious and refined performer of romantic music and indigenous folk music, with no hint of rock in his style. The greater part of the singers and composers who appeared in this era escaped or emigrated from Việt Nam to the West and are still professionally active. It was in this period also that the music of Trịnh Công Sơn (1939-2001; from Huế), who began composing in the late 1950s, became widely known. Trịnh Công Sơn is widely regarded as the inventor of a new genre, nhạc phận, or « songs on the human condition, » and is celebrated as well for the anti-war songs that he wrote during the American years. Khánh Ly, a semi-hoarse contralto now residing in California, is widely regarded as the finest interpreter of his music. Trịnh Công Sơn chose to remain in Việt Nam after 1975 and was eventually able to resume his activities as a musician. His music is very popular in Việt Nam today—people throughout the country spend entire evenings singing his songs to the accompaniment of guitars, and studies of his life, thought, and music appear by the dozen in bookstores.

After the Paris Peace Conference of 1972, there was a brief period in which people of the South entertained some hope that peace might return to Việt Nam. This hope was memorably reflected in the compositions of several tân nhạc composers. Phạm Duy wrote a set of ten « Bình Ca » or « Songs of Peace » that he published together with ten « Bé Ca » or « Children’s Songs » and ten « Nữ Ca » or « Women’s Songs » under the collective title « Hoan Ca, » or « Songs of Celebration. » Nhật Ngân wrote a happy piece in a minor-key folk idiom called « Ngày Ðá Ðơm Bông » or « The Day the Rock Puts Blossoms Forth, » and Trịnh Công Sơn wrote an upbeat, breathlessly expectant song called « Ta Ðã Thấy Gì » or « What Have We Seen? » It soon became plain that war would go on, but musical life in the South nevertheless continued normally almost until the day of the fall of Sài Gòn (April 4, 1975).

The period of North-South division was followed by a period of in-country/expatriate division that began in 1975 and is still going on. Tân nhạc has naturally developed differently in the two halves of this split. Within Việt Nam there was a period of heavy government control from 1975 to 1988, followed by an era of considerably relaxed control, during which many new fashions and artists have appeared. While traditional melisma and ornamentation survive in the work of a number of composers and singers (Ngọc Sơn, Thu Hiền, Ngọc Huyền), it has become fashionable within Việt Nam to sing in a studiously tough, loud, macho manner, with little ornamentation. This style is inherently inferior to what preceded it, but some singers (Cẩm Vân, Hồng Nhung, Mỹ Linh, Trần Thu Hà) manage to use the style to advantage. Jazz singing, and much work of a boldly experimental nature, has made a strong appearance as well. Trần Tiến, currently about sixty years old, is the author of about half a dozen or so excellent and very popular songs (« Tóc Gió Thôi Bay, » « Hair No Longer Flying in the Wind »; « Sao Em Nơ Vội Lấy Chồng, » « How Can You Bear to Take a Husband Hurriedly? »), in many of which he shows a remarkable ability to compose in phrases of irregular length. An Thuyên, who sometimes writes in the central style (« Ca Dao Em Và Tôi, » « A Folk Song For You and Me »), is another strong and varied composer. A male singer, Quang Linh, has achieved tremendous popularity in spite of a relatively traditional approach to his art. A master of ornamentation, he is a consummate interpreter of songs in the central style. Another singer, Ánh Tuyết, who has a fine high soprano voice, also eschews modern pop styles but is nevertheless popular. Ngọc Sơn is a special case; a composer and singer of much exquisitely delicate music in traditional melismatic styles, he also sometimes composes and performs loud, vulgar, aggressively offensive disco music.

In the expatriate world, singers and composers have on the whole been more faithful to indigenous traditions than their counterparts within the country. Even people within Việt Nam readily admit that most of their finest singers and a good many of their best composers reside abroad. The history of tân nhạc outside of Việt Nam falls naturally into two periods. In the first, lasting from 1975 to about 1985, much energy went into the production of music expressing feelings of loss, nostalgia, or defiance provoked by the émigrés’ loss of their homeland. From the mid-eighties to the present, there has been a certain return to emotional normalcy, coupled with a great surge of creativity spurred by CD, video, and, most recently, DVD technology. Throughout the 1980s, the preferred home entertainment of most Vietnamese émigré families were videos of Chinese historical dramas produced in Hong Kong with dubbed-in Vietnamese sound tracks. Beginning in the early 1990s, however, videos of tân nhạc shows began to surpass Chinese historical dramas in popularity. These were originally simply produced, single-cassette videos without show hosts, the songs and singers being introduced merely by floating captions. They have since turned into elaborately managed multi-cassette productions with lavish stage settings and musical arrangements, often involving ballet and modern dance elements, interspersed with interviews, commentary, and comic skits. The leading company in the field is Thúy Nga Productions in Paris. Since 1984, this company has produced seventy-one editions of their main tân nhạc show series, which is called « Paris By Night. » The two MCs in this series, the novelist Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn and the lawyer Nguệyn Cao Kỳ Duyên (the daughter of General Nguyễn Cao Kỳ, former President of the Republic of Việt Nam), provide commentary that is funny, entertaining, and sometimes educational; they are welcome presences in the homes of expatriate Vietnamese people. The series is also widely watched and appreciated in Việt Nam, even though distribution of these videos is technically illegal there.

In the midst of these developments, Phạm Duy in southern California has been raising tân nhạc to new heights of seriousness and sophistication through the creation of such song-cycles as « Trường Ca Hán Mặc Tử » (« A Suite of Songs on the Poems of Hán Mặc Tử »), « Thiền Ca » (« Zen Meditation Songs »), and « Minh Hoạ Kiều » (« Illustrations of the Kiều »).[14] In 2004, at the age of eighty-two, Phạm Duy remains confident and creative and is seeking ways to mend the rift between him and the government of Việt Nam caused by his flight from the Việt Minh half a century ago. Among other highly significant figures (some now deceased) in the world of expatriate tân nhạc are Anh Bằng, Trầm Tử Thiêng, Nhật Ngân, Hoàng Thi Thơ (all residents of California), and Lam Phương (in France).

In response to economic reforms and relaxed ideological control in Việt Nam, some expatriate singers are now beginning to return to Việt Nam to pursue their careers, and it is likewise becoming more common for in-country artists to make professional visits to California and other places outside the country. These tendencies will no doubt grow stronger in the coming years.

3. Concluding Remarks

I wish to suggest in conclusion that anyone involved in the study of Việt Nam would be well advised to pay some attention to tân nhạc, for, quite apart from its considerable inherent attractiveness, it is a body of work that provides multiple avenues into Vietnamese history and culture. A knowledge of tân nhạc will enable the researcher to strike up a conversation that lasts for hours with almost any Vietnamese, and an ability to sing a few well-known songs from memory with appropriate stylistic blandishments will make him the object, in Vietnamese circles, of intense curiosity and affection.

According to a traditional Chinese account, the collection of ancient poems known as the Shijing or Book of Songs came into being when a Zhou dynasty king sent a group of officers into the countryside to make transcriptions of the songs the people were singing. The king hoped to discover by this means what the people were actually thinking and feeling. This method is still highly applicable in East Asia today.


I am grateful for a course-development grant from the Freeman Foundation that enabled me to spend a month in Vietnam and ten days in California’s Little Saigon (Orange County) in the summer of 2003. These expeditions enabled me to interview many musicians and collect a wealth of materials relating to tân nhạc.

1. Tân nhạc or xīn yuè was also a factor in Chinese culture in the twentieth century. It began there about ten years earlier than in Vietnam, but then suffered extreme forms of government suppression and control, with the result that much Chinese creative work in the new genres has had to take place in peripheral enclaves, chiefly Hong Kong and Taiwan. See Andrew F. Jones, Yellow Music (Durham: Duke University Press, 2001) and Nimrod Baranovitch, China’s New Voices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003).return to text

2. « Hận Ðồ Bàn, » (« Regret for Ðồ Bàn ») by Xuân Tiên and Lữ Liên, lamenting the fall of the Cham capital to Vietnamese troops led by Lê Thánh Tôn in 1470.return to text

3. Aficionados place much weight on the fluency and skill with which singers adorn their lines. There was a singer with the stage name of Ánh Ngọc, popular throughout the 1950s, who had a rich baritone voice and a finely musical way of delivering a phrase, but who always sang the notes as written, with no adornment. He was said to sing in a manner that was giỏi (skillful) but not hay (interesting, artistic).return to text

4. These themes are evidently very prevalent as well in a type of Japanese popular music known as enka. See Christine R. Yano, Tears of Longing (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2002).return to text

5. Examples include « Một Cõi Ði Về » (« A Region of Return ») by Trịnh Công Sơn and « Nước Mắt Mùa Thu » (« The Tears of Autumn ») by Phạm Duy.return to text

6. A number of well-known songs dealing with life in Sài Gòn belong to this subtype. An example is « Ghé Bến Sài Gòn » (« Stopping Off at the Sài Gòn Boatlanding ») by Văn Phụng.return to text

7. See « Paris By Night 56 » (video; Thúy Nga Productions, 2001); opening remarks by the master of ceremonies, Nguyễn Ngọc Ngạn.return to text

8. Nguyễn Văn Thương (1919-2002) from Huế was among the very earliest figures to write tân nhạc. Beginning at age nine, he taught himself guitar and music theory by studying French books and in 1936, the year of his graduation from high school, wrote the song « Trên Sông Huương » (« On the River Huương »; 1940s Polyphone recording performed by Minh Diệu). In 1939, while stranded in Hà Nội with no means of getting home for Tết; he wrote the song « Ðêm Ðông » (« Winter Night; » early performances by the cải lương opera star Kim Thoa). This is a fine, evocative piece, still widely performed. He traveled and studied in Rumania, Russia, and Germany after 1975 and served for a time as the director of the Hà Nội music conservatory. return to text

9. The Southern national anthem is still regularly sung at public functions by Vietnamese in other countries. Another song, « Việt Nam Việt Nam, » written in the mid-sixties by Phạm Duy, enjoys the status of a second, unofficial national anthem among these groups. « Công Dân » calls upon Vietnamese to make blood sacrifices for the nation; « Việt Nam Việt Nam » calls upon Vietnamese to unite in love and build a free and democratic nation.return to text

10. Phạm Duy is also the author of Musics of Vietnam (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1977), which is the best, most comprehensive account in English of indigenous musical traditions in Vietnam.return to text

11. I have collected titles of more than eighty films produced in the South before 1975. Some of these films are now being reissued in DVD form.return to text

12. The suite was published in the magazine Sáng Dội Miền Nam, edited by Võ Ðức Diên, and was performed in the Anh Vũ teahouse. The first arrangement was done by a German musician resident in Sài Gòn, Otto Soellner. See Phạm Duy, Hồi Ký, vol. III (P.D.C. Musical Productions, Midway City, California, 1991), chapter 11, 151-53, 156-58. return to text

13. This singer, the sister-in-law of Phạm Duy, supplied the voice for many Chinese singers in dubbed versions of Chinese movies and also sang in the background in the introductory sections of many other films. She currently lives in southern California and has ceased performing. return to text

14. Phạm Duy has been much assisted in the creation of these works by his son Duy Cường, a master of harmony and orchestration. « Illustrations of the Kiu » refers to Truyện Kiều (« The Tale of Kiều ») by Nguyễn Du, the national poem of the Vietnamese, written c. 1812-1820.return to text

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