Wednesday, 22/05/2024 09:08

Musicologist popularises classical music in a simple and pure way

COOL CLASSICAL: Musicologist Mai Đức Hạnh hopes to bring classical music to the masses. Photo courtesy of Việt Nam National Symphony Orchestra

Musicologist Mai Đức Hạnh has spent the last six years pursuing her dream of bringing classical music to the wider community, with the Bét Tô VUI event series at Vui Studio. 

Việt Nam News reporter Nguyễn Bình talked to Hạnh about the Bét Tô VUI

Bét Tô VUI has been selected as one of the most meaningful art projects of the year by Hanoi Grapevine. Does that make you happy?

I must say yes, of course and one more word surprised. I'm not the type of person who always sets goals. Not at all like that. I never thought I would do something big or great, or become a more mature or better person.

That's not who I am and Bét Tô VUI has that same spirit, not trying too hard to become something. I started Bét Tô VUI by chance, which Asians call duyên (fate).

Therefore, when my project is recognised by others, even at the simplest, most personal level in handwritten letters, or text messages and now recognised by Hanoi Grapevine, I enjoy it. I get happiness and warmth from all that recognition.

Could you tell more about Bét Tô VUI ?

First I want to talk about the environment for enjoying classical music in Việt Nam and my ideas, then I can explain more about Bét Tô VUI.

In Việt Nam, people often think of classical music as something distant, classy, scholarly, academic and even overly serious. But I don't agree. The classical music we talk about should actually be called western art music, so the most outstanding feature of that music is its pursuit of aesthetic beauty, touching human emotions.

I think it is necessary to spread classical music in the simplest way, so that everyone can see that it is simply music, to listen to and to enjoy. Simple and pure. There are many different composers, works, styles... suitable for every mood and emotional state or different occasions in life. People can broaden their horizons and know how to have more music choices, instead of sticking to songs with lyrics that might be on trend but then goes out of fashion too quickly.

Bét Tô VUI was born to help people understand that perspective on classical music and to make people know more information surrounding that music.

The way I lead the audience at Bét Tô VUI is also very simple, like friends sharing with everyone things they don't know and Bét Tô VUI also allows everyone to freely express their opinions and exchange feelings.

Of course, the most core part in terms of content still needs to follow a solid scientific system, with information filtered from books recognised by international and domestic experts. At the same time, I myself am a musicologist, I am also very careful with what I put out to ensure as much objectivity as possible.

That's what Bét Tô VUI is like.

You had a series of events with 25 sessions last year, how did the audience respond?

Well because the venue is not large and the popularity is not high, we can't measure in statistics how widely Bét Tô VUI has spread.

My goal has never been to make money, so I don't put work into public relations and advertising and yet the audience is excellent.

I really feel warm because of what I feel from the audience, who are always loyal to Bét Tô VUI every session. Any time I start, I see a lot of familiar faces, like a class where everyone looks forward to taking attendance. If anyone missed an event, they asked me to resend the lecture.

The audience who comes to Bét Tô VUI are all very polite and progressive people. They listen to me and clearly tell me what they think, or send me private messages to share their feelings when they listen to a touching piece of music.

At Bét Tô VUI, I have more space to get to know the audience better, and they let me know things about music that school didn't teach me. 

Do you think that Bét Tô VUI brings classical music closer to audiences and inspires them to have easier access to this kind of music?

That's right. There are many people who have followed Bét Tô VUI  at events and from afar, from other cities or even from abroad through what I post on social networks.

Each has told me something different. Some ones find Chopin their soulmate, some people find Tchaikovsky a comfort, other ones make friends with Bach, some even say that they don't like the crowd pleasers like Mozart... all of those reactions show that Bét Tô VUI has touched everyone.

Looking down at the audience to see everyone's sparkling eyes, their nods of approval, faces full of expressions surprise, fear, warmth and sadness, those are my happiest times.

What is your plan to further develop Bét Tô VUI?

The development plan for Bét Tô VUI has been implemented. In 2024, I upgrade the programme to a new version Bét Tô VUI CONCERT

The audience will listen to the artists perform live and be accompanied by interpretation and analysis of the works from myself and from the artists who directly play the works.

It can be said that this is a big step forward for the programme and for me personally and for the audience as well. We organise a monthly version of Bét Tô VUI CONCERT, in parallel with a series of 25 introductory speeches by Bét Tô VUI.

We held the first concert on May 4 and the programme was more successful than expected.

What made you to initiate and carry out the project?

Bét Tô VUI's predecessor was the A Touch of Classical programme initiated by owner of Vui Studio Coffee, music lover Tuấn-Anh Khuất. When I came to listen to music and made friends with him, he handed it over to me because he knew I was majoring in musicology.

I remember that the event in April 2018 where I introduced Beethoven had a very large audience and at that time people texted asking a lot of questions about classical music. I created a group on Facebook for them, combining the name Beethoven with the name of the venue, creating a new name: Bét Tô VUI with VUI in Vietnamese meaning happy.

It's funny, because we all know Beethoven's life wasn't really that happy, but if Beethoven came to us here, he would have been happy to see his music and more works by another enthusiastically received by the audience.

What are the good things about your work?

I feel very comfortable doing all the work that needs to be done for this programme. 

Along with many main jobs at the Việt Nam National Symphony Orchestra, teaching piano for living, all of this creates a rather stressful work and is intense so I sometimes find myself exhausted. But fortunately, when the music plays, I always find myself calming down. — VNS

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