Space Theatre, Tue 24 Oct
1988 was a big year for Australia. White Australia celebrated its bicentenary. It was also a big year for Dung Nguyen. He emigrated from Vietnam to join his father in Australia.
1988 is an inspiring cultural event. It attempts to portray the Vietnamese experience of migration and resettlement in a strange and foreign land through music, sound, and projected imagery. It is a beautifully intense creation.
It begins with Nguyen sitting on the floor playing a Vietnamese zither (dan tranh), that Asian stringed instrument whose evocative sounds are synonymous with traditional music from East Asia. Slowly the zither invites other sounds to enter: a sparse piano, an aching trumpet, deeply resonant double bass, vibraphone, and various other forms of percussion – most notably a gorgeous bamboo xylophone (dan trung). All the while the projected blurred images are becoming clearer as Nguyen gets closer to Australia.
Nine different musical pieces take us on an ongoing journey through arrival in the new land, sharing feelings of excitement and expectation, disruption and uncertainty, and finally back full circle to a point that feels like resolution; the acceptance of life as a migrant – forever a stranger but who nevertheless finds a way to retain their Vietnamese soul.
This is all done with exquisite collaboration between musicians seeking their space to contribute to the mood of each piece. A range of electronic gadgetry complemented traditional instruments and neatly symbolised the integration of old and new experiences that migration entails.
This was an enchanting performance – deeply moving, ethereal, exotic, a wonderful blend of sounds that may or may not become music, but all of which express feeling.
It concludes with Nguyen back on the floor, plucking his zither, gently humming to himself………
Lead Composers: Dung Nguyen, Peter Knights
This was the only performance of 1988.