Professor Tran Quang Hai asked me to write an Introduction to this book about his Life and his Work.
Not an easy task since his life is not a mere portrait hung on a wall for anyone to look at and describe, if one can.
Professor Hai’s life is a long road.
A long road that is.
A road which brings back the scenery of so many byways and highways this amazing man had covered in his memorable and outstanding life. They are the embodiment of the multifacet talents of an amazing artist and scholar.
Being a friend of Professor Hai does not make the task of introducing this book to the reader an easier task. There is always this concern that the writer, being a friend may be skewed to his favor and overstate the facts. Or on the contrary, for that same reason, being concerned of a perception of favoritism, the writer may try to minimize the facts. But should it be a concern? For a man of such talent and integrity, and a body of work which cannot be less than a rare precious jewel, under- or overstatement becomes an irrelevant issue.
To summarize it, the life of Professor Tran Quang Hai is a great but challenging road well-traveled.
And it is traveled by a traveler who, not only is not afraid to conquer it, he has been eager to make it fuller, better, more captivating, albeit more challenging not only for himself, but also for people and future generations who are going to travel this same road.
The Road is Musicology.
Not just from Vietnam where Professor Hai came from. Being born one day in May, 1944, in the Province of Dong Nai, South Viet Nam – a region blessed by its beauty and peaceful life, and also by its inspiring richness in resources and popular culture – the soul of this magnificent scholar and artist is as Resourceful and Inspiring as the region he comes from. A soul being shaped by many generations of illustrious ancestors, giants in the field of Vietnamese Musicology with his father Tran Van Khe being an accomplished scholar of Vietnamese and World Musicology.
Professor Hai’s road of musicology practice and musicology research goes beyond the confines of his country of origin.
It covers Vietnamese/Oriental Music. From traditional Vietnamese Music of all genres, to the musical background of the Montagnards in the Vietnamese Highlands. It went on beyond borders to address the wonderful aspects of the Musical Heritage of different countries spanning from Southeast Asia to Central Asia to reach as far as Israel, Central Europe to Western Europe.
Professor Hai has taken part in radio and television broadcasts in Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. He has been working for the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France since 1968, and is now retired after working for 41 years at the Department of Ethnomusicology of the Musée de l’Homme (Paris). He was a lecturer on South East Asian music at the University of Paris X – Nanterre (1988-1995).
He plays 15 or so musical instruments from Vietnam, China, India, Iran, Indonesia and Europe. Since 1966, he has given over 3,000 concerts in 70 countries, and has taken part in a hundred or so international traditional music festivals. He has taken part in radio and television broadcasts in Europe, America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.
Professor Hai has perfected and made us understand more the Jew’s Harp, the Song of Harmonics, he is the greatest specialist in overtone singing.
Apart from his artistic activities, he is also interested in musical research. He has improved the technique of spoons playing and of the Jew’s harp. In 1970 he found the key to the technique of overtone singing. The film « Le Chant des Harmoniques » (The Song of Harmonics) which he co-produced with Hugo Zemp, and in which he was the principal actor and composer of the film music, won four awards at international scientific film festivals in Estonia (1990), France (1990), and Canada (1991). He is considered as the greatest specialist in overtone singing in the world.
Dr. Hai has written numerous articles on Vietnamese and Asian music (New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, New Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, Algemeine Musikencyclopedie, Encyclopaedia Universalis). He has also recorded 15 LPs and 2 CDs (one of which obtained the Grand Prix de l’Academie de Disque Charles Cros in 1983). He has composed hundreds of popular songs. His musical experience is very varied: contemporary music, electro-acoustical music, improvisation, film music. He continues to preserve and develop traditional Vietnamese music (numerous new compositions for the 16 stringed zither dàn tranh).
He has received a Gold Medal for music from the Asian Cultural Academy, and honorary doctorates from the International University Foundation (USA), and the Albert Einstein International Academy (USA).
Along with multiple international awards, in June 2002, he received the medal of Knight of the Legion of Honor from the French President Jacques Chirac. In 2009, he was the recipient of the Medal of Honor, category Great Gold for his 41 years as a public servant of France.
He is the only Vietnamese to have taken part as a performer or composer in such great historical events as the Australia’s Bicentenary celebrations (1988), the Bicentenary of the French Revolution in Paris (1989), the 700th Anniversary of the Birth of Switzerland (1991), the 350th Anniversary of the Founding of Montreal (1992), the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America (1992), the 600 Years of Seoul-Korea (1994), the Jubilee of the King of Thailand (1996), the 1,000 Years of Trondheim in Norway (1997).
As I have said. Dr. Hai’s life is a long Road. A long Road indeed – not only for its length, but also for what has been left behind it.
For the two countries, Viet Nam and France, which are so dear to Professor Hai, his life will always be one of a model scholar for future generations to learn from, a symbol of pride never to fade away no matter the months and years.
For the World, Professor Tran Quang Hai will be remembered as a talented scholar with unparalleled character. Humble and compassionate. But call him simply a World Artist.
This book does render justice, if in part, to this Great Man and his Life. Well deserving to read with time well spent.
For me, Tran Quang Hai will always be, simply, My Friend. And the Honor is mine and the joy well shared.
Dr. Son Vi Nguyen, M.D.
Former Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
- The University of Texas, School of Medicine at Houston
- Texas Tech University