Saturday, March 01, 2008


Last night, after wandering around town for most of the day, also after a much-needed jetlag-inspired nap, Bet and I met Sunshine for a concert. Well, it wasn't really a concert. It was more like an introductory course in traditional Việt musicology run by internationally recognized master Dr. Trần Văn Khê, a professor at the University of the Sorbonne in Paris and honorary member of UNESCO's International Music Council. Dr. Khê was teaching today's lesson behind the yellow walls of the US Consulate, about ten minutes walk from my house. On the way to the event I noticed Bet had a painful looking blister on her foot. There's a medical office at the consulate, so I stopped in to pick up a couple of alcohol wipes and a band-aid. Now that's service. Back in our folding chairs, before the show began, we dressed Bet's toe and discovered the band-aids were little American flags. I think the US Consulate deserves a rimshot. The musical lecture was fabulous. Four musicians set in front of the audience. Dr. Khê spoke as the other three demonstrated an array of traditional instruments, soloing with each (a single-stringed slide harp-type thing with a note bending arm, a banjo-like strung gourd, a rounded and chaotically fretted cross between a zither and the neck of a sitar, etc.). Eventually, after demonstrating melodies written to evoke happiness and sorrow, the trio played their haunting, oddly-flat, eighth-note music together in an improvisation reminding me that much eastern music seems slightly out-of-synch to me: ghosts talking over one another. But then Dr. Khê brought out a drum and, after some short explanation, he proceeded to tie all the different sounds together with percussion in a way that, for that moment only, actually finally made some cosmic sense to me. [Cavin]

Then, a 0 sided conversation ensued...

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