, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



Members of the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop. Confucius

Days are long but years are short. The last short five years bear witness to many long days of hard work, resulting now in the inspiring progress of my friends and colleagues in the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble. I’m proud to announce our impressive fifth anniversary season, HANOISE!

International collaborations define our fifth season, as we build new friendships and strengthen old partnerships with each concert. We’ll be working with two Vietnamese ancient music groups, the Phú Xuân Ensemble of Huế and the Đông Kinh Cổ Nhạc/Ancient Ensemble of Tonkin of Hà Nội as well as members of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble in March of 2020. In October 2019, members of the Ensemble Modern in Germany and Arditti String Quartet will join my friends in concerts both in Hà Nội and Hồ Chí Minh City, sponsored by the Goethe Institut. The season opens Friday September 6th at 20h00 at the Vietnam National Academy of Music as we present The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble and concludes in April 2020 with a final concert I’m looking forward to conducting.


Planning meeting together in April 2019 in Mai Châu.

For any new music group, this many prestigious national, regional and international collaborations put into one season would be a landmark next step. For a group only five years old, HANOISE! is an exciting testament to the determination of my Hà Nội colleagues and their desire to work together with me and my wife Jan Karlin. Each small step leads to a big statement. We’re now successfully combining the short term work of rehearsals and concerts with the critical long term planning needed to achieve future artistic dreams.

No project falls fully formed from the sky – let alone an entire ensemble!


Rehearsing the ferocious music of Nguyễn Thiên Đạo in March 2019.


The Hà Nội New Music Ensemble toured to Yogyakarta this summer.


Cultures meet as Phạm Trường Sơn captures a Yogyakarta sunset.

We are extremely grateful to the Goethe Institut Yogyakarta and Hà Nội for their generous support of artistic initiatives between the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble and our friends in The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble. My Vietnamese friends went to the center of Javanese culture, the land of shadow puppets and gamelans, with a small chamber group just this July. Their program featured music by Đỗ Nhuận, Tôn Thất Tiết and Vũ Nhật Tân. All reports were positive and now we are returning the favor and hosting our Javanese friends in Hà Nội!


The Hà Nội New Music Ensemble lands in Yogyakarta this July.


In performance in Yogyakarta.


Cheers to Việt Nam and Yogyakarta!

We are pleased to begin HANOISE! on Friday September 6th at 20h00 by welcoming The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble to Hà Nội for a performance in the Small Hall of the Vietnam Academy of Music. Imagine a summit of sounds between the I-Ching and Ramayana as these two major cultures begin a 21st century exchange.

Our Javanese colleagues formed The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble in 2017, lead by cellist Dhen Hidayat. Their mission is to play both Western and traditional Indonesian music in new idioms. They have already launched a Yogyakarta Contemporary Music Festival and Yogyakarta International Chamber Music Festival as well as participating in the internationally recognized October Meeting, impressive and ambitious achievements. The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble is also embarking on a recording project of young composer and young musicians entitled Maniasthetic.

The new music program from Java presented in Hà Nội will include Kala for Solo Cello by Royke Bobby Koapaha, Kucing and Pisaro Munyuk by Gator Danar Sulistyanto, The Ritual of Tarawangsa and Quartet No. 2 by Aldy Maulana, and Third Period for Soprano & Electronics  by Tony Maryana.

There is a powerful new music wave building out of all of Southeast Asia. This fresh contemporary alliance between Việt Nam and Indonesia is a key element of the coming century. Unburdened by Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, the music of this part of the world reaches back into Sacred Time, the world of ringing gamelans and shadow puppets, being recast in the 21st century with elements from the new music of the West.


Reaching back centuries, Yogyakarta is the center of the cultural life of Java.

The timing is perfect for my Hà Nội group to interact with musical friends from the cultural center of Indonesia in Yogyakarta. I am sure this is just the beginning. We are very happy Javanese cellist Dhen Hidayat, soprano Ika Sri Wahyuningsih, guitarist Jardika Eka Tirana, pianist Yuty Lauda, composer Aldy Maulana Firmansyah, clarinetist Albina Agus Nursanto and violinist Ega Putra will come to Hà Nội in this program of new works by young composers from Indonesia!


The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble.


Vũ Nhật Tân discusses the Yogyakarta tours with Wilf Eckstein of the Goethe Institut Hà Nội.


Members of The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble in Hà Nội.

HANOISE! will continue in October with an important next step for my Hà Nội New Music Ensemble players. They will begin working with clarinetist Nina Janssen-Deinzer of the Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt and cellist Lucas Fels of the Arditti String Quartet. After this introductory experience, I’m looking forward to shaping together future initiatives in subsequent seasons between Hà Nội and these brilliant players. Sponsored by the Goethe Institut Hà Nội, there will be concerts October 11 in Hà Nội and then a repeat on October 12 in Hồ Chí Minh City.

The ambitious collaborative program in October features a commission from the Goethe Institut to Vũ Nhật Tân.  In fact it is his title that inspires the motto for our fifth season, as this pièce d’occasion is called HANOISE! I am happy my good friend Tetsuji Honna, musical director of the Việt Nam National Symphony Orchestra, conducts this premiere while I remain in the United States with important family obligations this fall. Tan has created an ensemble work for the inspiring duo of Phạm Trà My and Ngô Trà My, virtuosa masters of the Vietnamese đàn tranh and đàn bầu, creating a soundscape of Hà Nội, its traffic and streets, boulevards and atmosphere.

Then comes the Vietnamese premiere of Fieberphantasie by Jörg Widmann followed by the inspiring Quatour pour le fins du temps by Olivier Messiaen, the teacher of a grandfather of Vietnamese new music, Nguyễn Thiên Đạo. These challenges are a fantastic way for my players to grow under the expert guidance of Nina Janssen-Deinzer of the Ensemble Modern and Lucas Fels of the Arditti Quartet. This new collaboration is also a good way to demonstrate the international interest building about the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble, and trust me, we’re just getting started!

Welcome to Hà Nội, Nina and Lucas!


Vũ Nhật Tân with HANOISE! soloists Phạm Trà My and Ngô Trà My.


Tokyo lunch at Suntory Hall with Tetsuji Honna, who conducts HANOISE!


On the right is Lucas Fels, cellist  of the Arditti Quartet.


Student and teacher: Nguyễn Thiên Đạo and Olivier Messiaen.


Vũ Nhật Tân’s home studio in Hà Nội.

After this busy fall period of new collaborative activity, Jan and I will return to Hà Nội in early 2020 to continue our wonderful relationship with our friends in the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble. I am particularly excited to return to conduct the final circle of The Five Elements of Vũ Nhật Tân. In case you’re curious, I’ve a previous blog you can easily search about the barnstorming success of our March 2019 premiere of the middle section of The Five Elements, and completing the circle of this full concert work will mark an appropriate fifth anniversary season milestone. There are some new elements in The Five Elements, but they are right now only known on the desk of Tân’s studio that you see pictured above.

As in past years, I’m expecting a wonderful Christmas present via email and will get right to work memorizing this new piece once the score is finished!


Jan enjoying lunch in Hà Nội‘s charming Old Quarter.

Hà Nội is now truly our second home, and as I mentioned earlier, we need to remain in the United States this fall for important family obligations. But once 2020 rolls around and the 2019 holidays are a memory, we will both need a great cup of Vietnamese coffee and the oh-so-delicious food of Hà Nội, which is one of the great food cities in the world!

Why not mark you calendars to be in Hà Nội at 20h00 on Sunday March 22, 2020 for the world premiere of the final circle of The Five Elements?

And my ever resourceful friends in Hà Nội have already added a new element, pun unavoidable, to move the project into new and exciting territory. We’ve already blended my Hà Nội New Music Ensemble players with the Đông Kinh Cổ Nhạc/Ancient Ensemble of Tonkin. For the capstone completion of this full evening work, we will be honored to add the Phú Xuân Ensemble of Huế, led by the true grande dame of Vietnamese music, Madame Thanh Tâm. This, as the French would say, is the coup-de grâce for The Five Elements.


At dinner in 2017 with Thanh Tâm in Huế.

Madame Thanh Tâm bears witness to the extraordinary history of her country. She was a grammar school friend of the venerable composer Tôn Thất Tiết in Huế. Tâm has sung for Bảo Đại, The Last Emperor of Việt Nam, South Việt Nam’s ill fated Ngô Đình Diệm, General Võ Nguyên Giáp, the Napoleon Rouge general of the Battle of Điện Biên Phủ, and Uncle Hồ Chí Minh himself. Her voice is the sound of history and knowing her now as a friend is an honor of a lifetime for both Jan and me. Her willingness to participate in The Five Elements is the only message our Vietnamese public needs to know the seriousness of the project. After our last performance for a thousand people, perhaps we’ll be adding a performance, you never know!

And at the time of numerous performances of works by Tôn Thất Tiết for our landmark Ascending Dragon Festival in 2010, music dedicated to the Perfume River that flows throw their childhood home of Huế, we had no idea who was singing the truly haunting boat song that opened Tiết’s river pieces. I even had an audience member in Los Angeles tell me that her life had been changed by hearing this music. Little did we know that our guardian angel during all that time was the extraordinary voice of Madame Thanh Tâm!


Now friends for life, Jan and Thanh Tâm in Sài Gòn 2018.


Tôn Thất Tiết.

And perhaps it will come as no surprise, but the venerable Tôn Thất Tiết, still quite active in Paris, has a series of supremely challenging solo string works each for one of the five elements. Plans for our upcoming 2020 residency are still under construction, though we are clearly anchored by the premiere of Vũ Nhật Tân’s The Five Elements. Perhaps meeting a member of the Arditti Quartet is a good idea for my young string players! At this early stage in September 2019, we have plenty of time to create the right complete programs for the concerts I’ll be conducting in March and April, so do keep in touch as ideas develop this autumn. My dream of course is one day to combine the solo string Five Elements of Tôn Thất Tiết with the magnum opus Five Elements of Vũ Nhật Tân.

There are always important signs in Việt Nam guiding ideas, friendships, relationships, business deals and artistic projects. I-ching readings remain common and in fact are an everyday part of life. Playing Cage might come naturally!


I-Ching fortune tellers lined up for business by West Lake.

Our project for The Five Elements did receive a sign from heaven, as the stars are indeed aligned. The creative leadership team for this project includes me, my wife Jan, composer Vũ Nhật Tân and impresario of the Đông Kinh Cổ Nhạc/Ancient Ensemble of Tonkin, Đàm Quang Minh. Our birthday astrology signs? All Leos!

Vũ Nhật Tân was born on August 8th. I was born at Hour of the Dragon on the morning of August 10th. It is said that when a person born in the Year of the Horse enters your life you will become successful. My wife Jan qualifies twice, being born on August 12th at the Hour of the Horse and in the Year of the Horse. This four season friendship for The Five Elements completes its circle with our dear friend Đàm Quang Minh, who is born on August 17th. And Four Leos + Five Elements = 9, the luckiest number of all!


Four Leos for The Five Elements.


The Hà Nội New Music Ensemble.

Welcome to the fifth anniversary of the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble, HANOISE! Be sure to stay connected as our season progresses. Why not consider booking your flight to Hà Nội to join me for The Five Elements in March 2020?

And to get started, let’s see you Friday night at 20h00 September 6th, 2019 for the opening concert of HANOISE! when the Hà Nội New Music Ensemble extends a warm welcome, with the support of the Goethe Institut Hà Nội, and presents The New Yogyakarta Contemporary Ensemble at the Vietnam National Academy of Music!

Best, best, best,