Manzi’s is a gallery and cafe in the center of Hanoi.

One of the shared projects within the Landscape Quartet is the idea of (re)visiting one’s own homeland, the landscape of one’s childhood. A dialectic take on this is Stefan Östersjö’s project involving also the Vietnamese dan tranh player Nguyễn Thanh Thủy. The idea is to create a dialogue about homelands, about old,  new and shared sites. For one thing, this would be a way to evade simplistic perspectives on identity and nationality. On April 27 Nguyễn Thanh Thủy and Stefan Östersjö went to the Bắc Ninh Province as a reconnaisance trip to her homeland. In Bắc Ninh, both of her parents grew up in the same small village of Ngang Nội, famed for Quan Họ the folk music tradition of love songs that emerge from the province and has had some of its most famous tradition bearers specifically in this little village.

Otherwise, the region is characterized by rice fields and small green mountains. In April, all the rice fields are also green and not particularly wet. In autumn, when we return to do the project, the fields will be more wet and the rice bigger and soon ready for harvest.

Ricefield and mountain

We went out from Hanoi on Thủy’s bike, filming the entire journey back to her homeland. Hence, Thủy arrived in her uncle’s house looking like as if she was trying the latest fashion from Europe (?):

Thuy with camera

Well in the village we started out by looking at an idea that Thủy had already before the trip of hanging a đàn tranh upside down over the field to capture the sound and movement of the wind in the rice. Walking out along the river by the fields nearest to the village we also discussed another idea of making sculptures with guitar and dan tranh in bamboo trees. But the main topic was now the rice fields. We were quite convinced that the sonorities inside the instrument would be rather complex since the 19 strings of the đàn tranh provides 38 pitches by the division of the bridge into two halves. Hence, using also a guitar would not add much in terms of pitch with its 6 open strings… Still we decided to borrow a đàn tranh and make a small test later in the day. The main discussion about this idea concerned how to hang the instrument in the field: should we adapt the method developed by Bennett and Stefan with the violin-guitar tree sculptures and suspend the đàn tranh on long strings from trees? Should we even attempt at connecting it to a second instrument to get similar sympathetic resonance in the two instruments? Obviously, if we were to manage to hang it on long strings, the wind over the fields would could create harmonics in the suspending strings also. In the afternoon we shot some short video tests with a dan tranh in a field. Although limited by the lack of microphones to put inside the instrument, we were quite optimistic about the minimal addition that the movement of the rice would make to the soundscape of birds and frogs that normally add to the sound of the wind through the rice in these fields.

The soundscape also has many traces from everyday life in the nearest villages. We went up on one of the mountains and found that many sounds travel all the way up to the top. But most importantly, when we started following the small paths leading up the mountain we realized something that Thủy was not quite aware of herself: every path would lead to a graveyard or a single tomb. In fact, this particular mountain was filled with tombs all the way up to the top. The ‘meaning’ of the paths on these mountains became very obvious and coloured our further exploration of them.

We went up on two mountains (the second perhaps more beautiful than the first) but never quite figured out exactly what to think of doing in these funeral and pastoral sites. However, the paths and the function of the mountains make them a prioritized target for the project. Also, the graveyards relate to another topic of this homelands project which is the relation to spirits that Thuy feels to be so much stronger in Vietnam than in Europe. Visiting a European graveyard has no relation to encounters with spirits or ghosts for her, while in her childhood just as today, many sites, for instance in her homeland, have this specific meaning.

leaves and path

Up on the second mountain we heard funeral music from one of the nearby villages. It seems to be part of the nature of this project to host a series of different man-made sounds that come and go in the soundscape.

The trees all around in the area are very young. Historically, this province afforded many big trees that were used to make huge pieces of furniture (like beds) from a single piece of wood. Now all those trees are gone, replaced by more quickly growing, lighter kinds.second mountain sunshine in trees

The homelands project in Bắc Ninh is planned to happen on site in the beginning of September, resulting in an exhibition at the alternative gallery space in the centre of Hanoi called Manzi’s.

Manzi's is a gallery and cafe in the center of Hanoi.

 

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