Stilling Time: Traditional Musics of Vietnam
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cd cover Various artists from Vietnam
Stilling Time: Traditional Musics of Vietnam (Innova Records)

A skilled chamber group performs "Little Song of River Lam." The group includes zither, lute and a modified guitar.

"Offering incense" - a singer with bell at Jade Bowl Temple

"Here Vi Da Village" - Singer, accompanied by monochord

Two seven year old girls sing "H Lu" a Nng folk song.

To call the music on this disc revealing would be an understatement. American musician Philip Blackburn travelled to Vietnam in late 1993 to record the village music of the nation and came home with a remarkable portrait of a culture both deeply reverential of the past and yet still dynamic and growing. The range of music here is amazing. There are dramatic theater pieces played on traditional instruments, a thundering gong orchestra, some wild, almost bluesy string bands, and a diversity of singing styles. From the northern mountain region we are introduced to the Nng style of close harmony singing by two young women who improvise on the spot, all the wit and energy of their songs coming right through the haze of language.

All of these recordings were made by semi-professional and amateur singers, in their homes and shops, on roads and front porches, each a magical moment in time that can't be repeated like a formal performance. The recordings themselves are of excellent quality, and the live energy of the musicians and singers makes this one of the best musical journeys you could make from home. - CF

Read Philip Blackburn's personal account of this recording trip, Voices of Vietman

The record label says:
Compiled during the first musical exchange between Vietnam and the United States since the war, this pioneering, lavishly produced digital recording compiled by Dr. Philip Blackburn documents exceptional performances of the diverse ethnic musics existing in Vietnam.

Highlights include virtuosic jazz-like improvisation on traditional instruments by Hanoi theater musicians, rarely heard two-part vocal singing by highland ethnic minorities (reminiscent of Bulgarian vocal styles), high-energy gong music with shifting, minimal rhythmic patterns, trance singing to manifest goddesses, and surrealist chanted poetry. Paddies, porches, temples, and slums, mountains, forests, cities, and farms provided the backdrops for these astonishing field recordings many made in remote mountainous areas and previously restricted zones where no Westerner had yet set foot.

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