In presenting this small selection of Vietnamese music, we have chiefly opted for the most transcriptible material at hand: Westernized vocal compositions written especially for the native audience, newly recreated as concert solos for the piano, in a composite style which aimed to combine two aspects of nineteenth-century western music, i.e. post-classical performance practice with late romantic harmonic language.
The first reason for this procedure is the nature of the concert grand piano: This well-tempered instrument proves quite ill-adapted to a microtonal musical system such as authentic South-East Asian traditional folk-songs. The second reason is the reality of modern urban life in Vietnam: The aural world experience there has been re-defined through Vietnam’s French colonial past. Cosmopolitan (as opposed to ethnic) music in quotidian life started out as just another offshoot of the sappy, pseudo-Gounod salon romances, as very minor French cultural import meant to entertain the new middle class. However, after a century-long development, this art form has gradually gathered extra momentum, both from its own indigenous roots as well as from the more rarefied atmosphere of the increasingly available genuine Kunstmusike. It is from this resulting répertoire that we have picked out our personal preferences.