Doctor of Music (DM)



Document Type




This document is in two sections. Chapter I is a study on the history, instruments and performance of Vietnamese ca trù folk music. Indigenous Asian music, especially music from Vietnam, has held an almost mystical interest for me with its links to the doctrines of Buddhism and Hinduism. Ca trù’s singular style, always sung by women in fixed ensembles, is of particular interest because of its colorful history and unique performance practices. The ca trù music of Vietnam’s northern provinces, like much Asian folk music, is considered an endangered genre.

Sources for Ca trù insights are scarce, but some research is currently ongoing. Songs with authentic instruments and performances are available on recordings and are used here for analysis.

Chapter II is an overview and score of a new composition, a ten-movement cycle of songs and instrumentals for mixed ensemble with solo soprano and tenor voices on texts about a soldier’s tour of duty during the Vietnam war. The music suggests Vietnamese music styles with pentatonic scales, drones, and simulated Vietnamese instrument sounds. The songs’ libretti are from poems written by Dr. Yusef Komunyakaa, Professor of Creative Writing at New York University, about his experiences as a war correspondent in Vietnam in 1969.

The musical score is preceded by an explanation of the musical structure that is based on a Hindu symbolic representation called the Kalachakra Mandala. A brief technical summary of each of the movements with the libretti follows, and then the complete score.



Committee Chair

Gibson, Mara



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