Various Artists

The Music of Vietnam, Vol. 2: Imperial Court Music

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While Celestial Harmonies is possibly the most commercialized label for ethnic musics, they have lived up to their own standards on the Music of Vietnam. To begin, in the liner notes, they don't actually have the Vietnamese names for any of the instruments, calling them only guitar, violin, flute, clarinet (meaning, presumably, plucked chordophone, bowed chordophone, reedless aerophone, single-reeded aerophone). The music on the album is worthy, regardless of the label's ignorance. There is ceremonial music from the Hue Palace, as well as dance music. In truth, the music seems a cross breed of Japanese Gagaku and Chinese silk and bamboo music (with maybe a touch of Sri Lankan temple circumambulation music). The "clarinets" sound much like the stereotypical oboes of southern India, with the style of the Orient used in the playing. The quality of the music is definitely good, as the performers did a good job on the compositions. Though the album is very definitely formatted for Western audiences (liner notes actually state that editorial policy is to omit accent marks used in Vietnamese names for pronunciation "which are not easily understood by non-Vietnamese speaking readers"), the performance is still decent, if perhaps a little more stereotypical of Chinese silk and bamboo that Westerners may have heard before.

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