LƯƠNG THỊ HỒNG THẮM
It is a pity that I never got a chance to meet and talk with Prof. Trần Văn Khê. I graduated from the Vietnam National Academy of Music, and have been working for the Vietnamese Institute for Musicology, but the dream of talking with Prof. Trần, who I adore very much, has not come true. Being a staff member of the Institute has brought me opportunities to attend many scientific conferences themed in the preservation of Vietnamese traditional music. They highlighted several issues, such as the preservation of authentic music art, the preservation and transmission of traditional music, the perservation and promotion of traditional music, and many problems that have not been solved yet, such as how to transmit to future generations? Who are the target learners? What is the proper age to start learning? What should be included in the curriculum?
When listening to the tape of Prof. Trần Văn Khê’s talk on in 2005 about “Music education in the schools as the suggestion of UNESCO” at the Vietnamese Institute for Musicology, I got many ideas.
I wondered why his talk had lingered in my mind for so long time. It was not because of only his sincere voice, but also his love of Vietnamese traditional music, his intensive knowledge and research methods that totally get my admiration.
To many people, Prof. Trần’s talk is simply giving some ideas about music education, but to me, a young traditional-music researcher, it was more than listening to a talk. I learned it, and spent much time thinking about traditional music education for children, a very difficult mission that my seniors were late to access and complete. Now I would like to provide you with Prof. Trần Văn Khê’s talk about this issue.
And the talk begins:
I am glad to be here talking to you my dears about UNESCO’s program of traditional music education for children. UNESCO is aware of a widespread phenomenon that is the domination of noisy music, new music and dance music in many countries. Because children in those countries have very muddled ideas about their own traditional music, thus easily falling to new and easy-to-comprehend genres, UNESCO has realized that children need to be educated about traditional music, not to become composers or performers, but to become people who love traditional music and are aware of national identity and to bring them the creativity mindset, not the habit of copying things as a parrot does. Those are the two main aims of the UNESO’s first program.
Several years ago, UNESCO held an international conference, in which all member states reached a concensus to experiment with traditional music education in the primary schools. The countries then had to report their experiments’ results, including achievements and shortcomings. The summary of experiences shared by member states were supposed to be significantly useful for the next phases of the program in Asia and all over the world.
UNESCO sent letters to members of five nations, namely Viet Nam, China, India, Thailand and Philippines, to which only Viet Nam responded. From Northern Viet Nam, Đặng Hoành Loan replied to the letter, and from Southern Viet Nam, Thiếu Quang did. I, an individial member of UNESCO, also answered. UNESCO was surprised by the situation that after two or three months since the letters were sent, they got the first response from Viet Nam. They were so delighted that they shortly made an appointment with me and decided that Viet Nam would be the first country supported by UNESCO to do this experiment.In
The experiment was planned to start in summer 2001. Suddenly, the terrorism attack happened in the America on the eleventh of September, causing the collapse of the twin towers, deaths, wounds and unemployment. The experiment of traditional music education was proposed by UNESCO, but financed by a great number of sponsors from the United States, many of whom actually seriously suffered from the incident’s aftermath. Apparently, they could no longer financially support this experiment.
In December, Ms. Tenra Vacne from UNESCO met me and said:
– No more money for this program, we simply cannot run it. What a pity! You executed this program in the America and France. I am very interested in your plan to get it done in Viet Nam, but it is not likely to happen now. Perhaps we had better forget about it.
– “Khéo ăn thì no, khéo co thì ấm” (stretch your arm no further than your sleeve) is a Vietnamese proverb. Let me know how much money you can give?
– I am so embarassed because the amount is even not enough to pay you for working here. I do not dare to think of offering you this little amount of money to work in Vietnam.
– How much do you think I deserve?
– I should offer a payment according to your position and experiences.
– Actually, I do not need the accordant payment that you suppose. All I need is air tickets and some money for documentation making.
– How can you be unpaid for running this business?
– Because I work on this program for my home country, not for UNESCO, I am willing to do it with no payment. UNESCO, a world organization, can spread the help to many other countries.
– I am so glad to hear that. Honestly, I can only help Viet Nam with a maximum of five thousand dollars, equivalent to seventy one million Vietnam dong.
So I went to Vietnam, embarking on the experiment. I started to cooperate with some governmental agencies in Ho Chi Minh City, not Hanoi. Ms. Thủy, Head of the Department of Culture and Information of Ho Chi Minh City, treated me as her uncle. Unfortunately, she was so busy with appointments and events that she could not afford any time for my project and recommended the College of Culture and Arts of Ho Chi Minh City as a potential work partner.
Mr. Huỳnh Quốc Thắng, the Principal of that College, was concerned about my project. He told me: Professor, please do not worry! You tell me to cut the coat according to the cloth, and I will do that. I will do a small-scale experiment in Ho Chi Minh City only.
To operate the project, we formed a class of twenty teachers, including people who were living in Ho Chi Minh City but were born in Northern or Central Vietnam, two Êđê ethnic people from the Central Highlands, and two Kh’me from Trà Vinh. The involvement of people with different origins diversified the class. Another class was set with twenty pupils, including two boys and eighteen girls from Trần Hưng Đạo Primary School in Ho Chi Minh City.
Three months after the opening in March 2004, we found a good teaching method that was comprised of the following points:
The first point:
We need to provide learners, who are teachers, with twelve intensive lectures about every basic feature of Vietnamese traditional music, though twelve is too small a number to summarize them. Reaching the pupils that they teach the other objective of the experiment, have to be taught in different ways; thus we apply new principles and methods.
The primary principle is to make children feel that music class is likely a place to play and: “Learning is playing and vice versa”. In this situation, teachers become friends who play musical games with the kids, where musical instruments are toys. All these things show that exploring Vietnamese traditional music is not too difficult for the children to take part in. The only point is to give them a favourable environment to play that music game.
Hence, What is the teaching method?
What do we teach?
We are not supposed to teach children about academic issues. We should begin with the familiar music genres to them, such as children’s folk poems, lullabies, or simple verses, such as proverbs and idioms, that can be taught at primary schools.
How do we teach?
Firstly, we introduce children with simple musical instruments that can even be bodily parts, such as voice, hands, feet, and gradually come to more complex items.
For the first lesson, we do not teach musical notation; hò, xự, xang, xê, cống, (Vietnamese musical notes); do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si (Westernm musical notes); or make children remember songs and then examine them. We should let children make sounds with popular items, such as spoons, cups, glasses and bottles; we introduce from tangible to abstract, from near to far, from simple to complex things. I make this order of things to be introduced our common principle.
By what method?
It has been happening to our music education that children are taught seven notes-do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, si-then simple songs, such as Bắc kim thang cà lang bí rợ or Tập tầm vông. That is the Western education method, which mostly is to train the eyes to read musical notes correctly and the hands and mouths to reflex most actively. However, music is not about the eyes, but the ears. Likewise, it is inappopriate to train the eyes before the ears.
My teaching method, which is basically oral transmission, is to train the ears effectively first. Without text to write down, the only medium to remember lessons is human memory. Learning in that way boosts people’s capability of remembering. Likewise, this method trains both the ears and the memory. Having ideas about music in their minds, learners can easily write them down and practice singing and playing instruments. I actually have made a reverse in the order of bodily parts to be trained that I educate the ears and the memory before the eyes and the reflection of people’s hands and mouths.
The second point:
Normally, learners are taught songs’ melodies and have no idea about the meters until five or six months later, which means they happen to know what is meter one, meter two, meter three and so on a very long time after being introduced about the melodies. That is unreasonable.
Naturally, a two-month-old fetus is able to recognize his mother’s heartbeat. Listening to the heartbeat, which sounds like a ticking clock, the fetus gets accustomed to that rhythm. A seven- or eight-month old fetus can listen to his own heatbeat and the mix of his and the mother’s heartbeat. When the fetus matures and comes out of the womb, he cries in a rhythm. Since his childhood, he was farmiliar with the rhythm made while his mother was rocking the cradle andsinging lullabies. When that child goes out, he sees people’s steps on the road, and they are in rhythms; he sees the bamboo frames bouncing rhythmically on hawkers’ shoulders; he also sees tidal waves moving forward and backward on the coast, making a rhythm. The transformation from day to night and vice versa makes a rhythm, and the repetition of four seasons (spring, summer, autumn and winter) one after each other also makes a rhythm. Likewise, a person, since his fetus period, is naturally accustomed to meters and rhythms formed everyday in outer environment. Why do we not teach children about meter and rhythm first? Children who are aware of the rhythms will play with them and get to know melodies. Therefore, besides the first method that trains the ears and memory before the eyes and mouths, I give the second method, which teachs rhythm before melody.
The third point:
We do not require children to learn by rote, but let them invent some verses and songs, encouraging their creativity; we do not expect children to learn passively by listening and then repeating exactly, but let them be creative and actively make their own works. Instead of making children to learn by rote, I ask them about the folk verses or folk songs, and if they give wrong answers, I give them some hints”.
Here are some examples:
- The first story:
On a lesson, I told some learners, who were teachers at primary schools: “You remember the verses: Chuồn chuồn có cánh thì bay / Có thằng bé nhỏ thò tay bắt chuồn (Dragonflies fly with wings / A child reaches his hand to catch them), do not you? People in Southern Vietnam teach children those verses by plainly repeating the words until the kids remember. Tomorrow I will show you another way to introduce those verses to children through a story”.
The next day, I came in, sat down and asked the children: My dears, who know dragonflies? And they exclaimed: Mister, we all know them.
– What do dragonflies look like?
– They have big heads.
– What else?
– They have long bodies.
– What else?
– They have wings.
– What for?
– To fly.
Those are your words. Now write your words down. Chuồn chuồn có cánh … bay (Dragonflies have wings… fly). We already have five words and it needs one more words to complete a six-meter verse. A learner said: Chuồn chuồn có cánh để bay (Dragonflies have wings to fly), filling the word “để” (to) in the blank. I let every kid fill and keep their own word into the verse, in order to show them that their inventions were appreaciated. After a while, we came up with four or five different words added, such as: Chuồn chuồn có cánh để bay (Dragonflies have wings to fly), Chuồn chuồn dùng cánh để bay (Dragonflies use wings to fly). There is a folk verse saying: Chuồn chuồn có cánh thì bay (Dragonflies fly with wings). Therefore, it is acceptable that you say: Chuồn chuồn có cánh để bay (Dragonflies have wings to fly).
– And do you like catching dragonflies?
– Yes, we do.
– What do you catch them with?
– With hands.
– Oh, yes, the word “tay” (hands) and the word “bay” (fly) have the same final sound. Then what do you do with your hands?
– My hands catch the dragonflies.
– Yes, they do. So who catch the dragonflies?
– I do.
– Who are you?
– I am a child.
Then I said: Now we have A child…. Let us fill in the blank to make it a eight-meter verse. A child suggested: Chuồn chuồn có cánh để bay / Có một thằng nhỏ thò tay bắt chuồn (Dragonflies have wings to fly / A child reaches his hands to catch them).
That kid came so close to the authentic folk verse that it would not take us much time and effort to help him finish the task. The children could create verses as they had already done. I asked: Do aldults like catching dragonflies as children do?
– Yes, they do.
– Then what will you say when the catcher is an adult?
– Teacher, I will say: Có thằng lớn đại thò tay bắt chuồn (A young man reaches his hands to catch them).
– Good. You make it. Write your verse down. Now is that young man tall or short?
– He is tall.
– Then what will you say?
– Lanky. Có thằng cao nghệu thò tay bắt chuồn (A young lanky man reaches his hands to catch them).
– What if he is not lanky?
– He is short.
– Then what do you say?
– A dwarf.
– Có thằng lùn xịt thò tay bắt chuồn (A dwarf reaches his hands to catch them). But there are béo (or mập in Southern dialect) – fat and gầy (or ốm) – skinny people as well?
– What do you say if he is fat?
– A fat young man.
– Có thằng mập ú thò tay bắt chuồn (An obese man reaches his hands to catch them). What do you say if he is not fat?
– Có thằng ốm nhắt thò tay bắt chuồn (A scrawny man reaches his hands to catch them).
– What do we call fat men’s bellies?
– Pot belly.
– And we have Có thằng bụng bự thò tay bắt chuồn (A pot belly man reaches his hands to catch them).
– Besides “bụng bự”, what is the other term to call fat belly?
– We also call it “bụng phệ”. Có thằng bụng phệ thò tay bắt chuồn (A pot belly man reaching his hands to catch them).
All of the children’s inventions were written down on board. I asked who remembered those verses, and everyone answered that they did. Children do not need practice to remember; they remember because they are the inventors.
Chuồn chuồn có cánh thì bay
Có thằng mập ú thò tay bắt chuồn
Chuồn chuồn có cánh thì bay
Có thằng ốm nhắt thò tay bắt chuồn.
Dragonflies fly with wings
An obese man reaches his hands to catch them
Dragonflies fly with wings
A scrawny man reaches his hands to catch them
Children seemed to enjoy that lesson, because they came to create, not to learn the verses, and that made music classes sound interesting to children.
- The second story:
I asked the children:
– You feel that one musical instrument does not make great sounds, do you not? But three instruments do. Do you remember a folk verse referring one thing and three things with the same meaning?
All of the children answered:
– One tree does not make a forest
– How about three trees?
– Together three trees do.
– Who said that?
– I do not know.
– What is it that you do not know about the author?
– A folk thing.
– Who does the folk refer to?
– Good. People in the past were capable of inventing verses; what about you today?
– No way.
– Why not?
– We the children know how to compose neither poems nor songs.
– Oh, do not worry! You play a game with me, and we imitate those folks to compose verses. They said: “One tree does not make a forest / Together three trees do”.
– You did say: Một thanh làm chẳng nên đờn (One musical instrument does not make a band). Now give one more verse.
– Ba thanh chụm lại nên bộ nhạc gõ (Together three instruments make a percussion band), immediately he responded.
The child was right in terms of the verse meaning, but it sounded unlike a folk verse. Let us take a look at the folk verses: Công cha như núi Thái Sơn / Nghĩa mẹ như nước trong nguồn chảy ra (Father’s love is as great as Mount Tai / Mother’s love is infinite like water from fountain). To make a proper rhythm, the word “nguồn”’s tone must be flat. That is an example of rhythming in folk verses. Therefore, Một thanh làm chẳng nên đàn/ Ba thanh dụm lại nên bộ nhạc gõ does not work. A child said: Teacher, I make it. Một thanh làm chẳng nên đàn / Ba thanh dụm lại nên đàn rất hay (One musical instrument does not make a band / Together three ones play beautifully). I said yes, it is acceptable, but we can make it sound more beautiful by replacing the word “đàn” in the second verse as it duplicates from the first verse. Who can make a word with the syllable “àng” that fit this verse’s meaning? After forty seconds, another child responded: Teacher, Một thanh làm chẳng nên đàn / Ba thanh dụm lại nên dàn nhạc hay (One musical instrument does not make a band / Together three ones make a great band). That is a complete couple of verse. Then I told them to make another verse that sounded more objective, not to self-flatter as a great band which played greatly. I directed them with questions such as: What is this stuff made of, wood or brass or else? Teacher, it is made of wood. Now what? The child said: Một thanh làm chẳng nên đàn / Ba thanh dụm lại nên dàn nhạc tre (One musical instrument does not make a band / Together three ones make a bamboo band). I asked them to sing all of the newly invented verses and they did joyfully. They knew that folk verses can be composed by not only their forefathers, but also themselves, and they really did. Thus, the teacher gave child learners a thought that studying is not to learn by rote, but to invent.
Heading to the lesson of musical words hò, xừ, xang, xê, cống, which I let children play with, I helped their attention with the popular Đờn ca tài tử song “Long hổ hội” that every child knows.
I told them: Now you recompose this song by grouping three words each time, for instant, hò xử hò/ xang xừ xang/ xê cống xê. They made them up: xế xang xừ/ cống xang hò/ xê xàng xê/ xừ xang hò/ xang xừ xang, etc, and wrote down all of their makings. Everyone made their own composition, although not every song of their invention sounded beautifully. The children then played solfege with each other and kept thinking that they are the inventors.
Later, I introduced the children to bamboo sticks, song loan (an idiophone), drums, and other musical instruments, in order from simple to complex, so that the kids would feel like playing with good toys. I instructed them to clap their hands following the beat. They did as I told, then they pat their palms on their chests, on their thighs, and on the tables. Apparently, the table pats were their favourite, and the pats followed the rhythms as below:
Kids, split meter! And they did as below:
Kids, keep splitting the meter! And here is what they created:
I made up rhythms for them to play and taught them folk dances of Viet Nam with my own performance as an example. Every single one of them was extremely excited about this traditional dancing part.
When the dance lesson was finished, I moved to teach them how to play the drums: A hit in the middle of the drum makes the sound “tùng”; a hit on the drum barrel makes the sound “cắc”, a hit on the covered drumheads makes the sound “tịch”. I will talk about three sounds of drums that are tùng, cắc, and tịch:
I taught the children and played with them. I told them about the rhythm cắc – rụp – cắc, cắc – rụp – cắc/ cắc rụp cắc of Bội singing in Southern Vietnam.
Although three sounds are made, Southern people call it nhịp một thày rùa (measure one thày rùa – a male stage character with yellow eyes like rattles). When the drummer hits it cắc – rụp – cắc, on the stage, thày rùa is singing. “Now you kids play the function of the band and I take the role of thày rùa. Start hitting the drums, kids! Then they made it cắc – rụp – cắc/ cắc – rụp – cắc, miệng đọc cắc – rụp – cắc/ cắc – rụp – cắc, tay đánh đọc cắc – rụp – cắc/ cắc – rụp – cắc…” The children and I kept hitting and singing harmoniously. They had much fun, thinking that they made a drum band to accompany their teacher’s singing in a Bội singing performance. The good point is that they no longer find Bội singing unfamiliar, and now they know that it is not too difficult for them to learn and is something playable.
After drum playing and Bội singing, I told the kids about measure two. Measure two is actually the easiest in Chèo singing. I played:
Then I asked the children: “What is this measure? Measure two. Where did you hear it? In Chèo singing”. I taught them the measure four, and they imitated me perfectly. I gave up on the measure eight because it is too hard for children to get.
In addition to the lessons of basic musical theories and the measure two and four in playing drums, I also told the kids about Vietnamese folk philosophies: “Cắc and Tùng, which of the sounds is the higher tone? – It is cắc. Right. Vietnamese people call that high tone đánh sáng (play in bright tone). And tịch is in low tone and is called đánh tối (play in dark tone). Vietnamese percussion music products must contain both bright (high) and dark (low) tones, which referring to yang and yin in turn. Likewise, what is the day referred to? It is yang. What about the night? It is yin. Even in the matter of cuisine, the application of yin and yang philosophy is not absent, since Vietnamese people consider salty to be yang, and sour to be yin”. The beginning of my talk was not serious but playful, then gradually turned to philosophical topic, namely yin – yang, bright – dark, and even that Thái cực (the universe – the ring) developed to Lưỡng nghi (two elements yin and yang).
Showing the material đờn kìm or đờn nguyệt (moon-shaped lute) to children is much better than resorting to drawings or pictures. Let the children see and touch a real instrument, I asked:
– How is the box of this instrument?
– It is round-shaped.
– Southern people call this instrument đờn kìm. What do people in Central and Northern Vietnam call it?
– Đờn Nguyệt.
– Why do they use the word nguyệt? What is nguyệt?
– The moon.
– Because this round box looks like the moon.
– Now count the frets. How many frets are there in a đờn kìm?
– One, two, three, four…, eight. It has eight frets.
– And how many strings here?
– How to play it?
– Press on the note tồn and tang.
Next, I showed them a tỳ bà (pearl-shaped four-stringed lute) and asked:
– How about this đờn tỳ bà?
– It has four strings.
For this four-stringed lute, I taught them to play the notes tồn – tang – tôn – tính (hò – xang – xê – lứu) or tồn -lang – mai – chúc. I let the children explore this musical instrument, let them yell out what they see, taught them how to play, and finally left them playing with the đờn tỳ bà.
When introducing other musical instruments, such as đàn bầu (Vietnamese monochord), đờn nhị (two-stringed fiddle), I also played the instruments for the children and taught them about their characteristics, such as the bow of the đờn nhị. I guided them to explore from the simple to more complicated instruments, from one to four strings and up to sixteen.
As the children became able to play the instruments, I attracted them with a game. How do we play đờn kìm that we have already learned? tồn – tang. Then every child voluntarily took their previously delivered đờn kìm and practiced like playing game. Đàn tỳ bà was played as: tồn – tang – tồn – tang – tôn – tính. I also asked them to compose a song:
– Who knows đờn kìm?
– I know it (tồn tang – tồn – tang – tồn – tang).
– Who knows đờn tỳ?
– I know. (tồng – tang – tông – tính/ tồng – lang – mai – chúc).
– Who knows đờn cò?
– I do. (ò e, ò e, ò e)
– Who knows đờn tranh (long board zither)?
– I know. (á rằng tăng tăng tằng tăng…)
– Who can play drum?
– I can. (tùng tùng tùng tùng tùng tùng…)
– Who can play song lang (percussion)?
– I can. (cóc cóc cóc cóc cóc cóc…)
The children challenged each other with this ask-and-answer game, and they were so excited that they really supposed that this was playing, not learning. You see that I taught the children from simple to complicated, from specific to abstract, from rhythm to melody. Everything was to help children get the lessons most thoroughly; everything was for their success.
On the closing day of the experimental class, I told the kids: Today is the last day of my teaching here. We will celebrate at the closing ceremony tomorrow, then I have to say goddbye to you. But the kids insisted on having me with them longer. I told them to compose a song for memory by finding the words which sound like the notes that I gave them:
– Hò – xừ – hò.
– Ngày gặp thày (The day when I met my teacher).
– Xang – xừ – xang.
– Vui thật vui (Glad we were so glad).
– Then what did you do? Xê – cống – xê.
– Em hát ca (We were singing).
– So what?
– Hay thật hay (Well we sang so well).
– What did I come to you for?
– You came to teach us how to play drums and sing.
– Hò – xừ – xang.
– Thày dạy em (Teacher taught us).
– Xang – hò – xang – xừ.
– Ca đàn dân tộc (Sing and play traditional musical instruments).
– What kind of music did I teach you?
– Vietnamese music.
– Did you get it?
– Yes, we did.
– Now you know Vietnamese music. Do you love it?
– Yes, we do.
– Good. Now you make a phrase with these notes: cống – hò – xê-
xang – xừ – hò – xê.
– Biết và thương âm nhạc Việt Nam (know and love Vietnamese music).
– Lứu cống xê lứu công xê xang.
– Sáng hôm nay tới phút chia tay (This morning is our farewell). But teacher, we do not want to say goodbye.
– So what do you sing?
– Sáng hôm nay không chịu chia tay (We do not want to say goodbye on this morning).
– If the note in this sentence was xự, you could use the word không chịu, but here it is lứu cống, now make it right
– Sáng hôm nay chẳng muốn chia tay.
– I want to ask you something. Do you love me?
– Yes, very much.
– Which means?
– That I love Vietnamese music.
– Will you miss me?
– A lot.
– Which means?
– That we will be missing Vietnamese music.
The children ultimately composed the lyrics as Nhạc Việt Nam em yêu suốt đời (I love Vietnamese music forever) corresponding to the notes Xừ xang xê xang xê cống hò.
At the last lesson, the children made lyrics for the song Long hổ hội as follows:
“We have already composed the lyrics. Now each of you give this song a name; then we vote for the best choice”. Thirteen out of twenty children chose the title The last lesson, eleven liked the name Love of master and disciples, and the rest went for The farewell. I said that I had no idea, and I let them finalize the song’s title.
– There is a social rule that the minority must obey the majority’s decisions. You the eleven kids are the minority, and you the thirteen kids are the majority, thus, our song’s name is The last lesson. Do you all agree?
– We agree with a regret.
– Because you feel regret, I give you five more minutes to negotiate and persuade the others to vote for your idea. After five minutes, they came to me:
– No one wants to compromise, teacher.
– Can we make it good for both sides by combining the titles into Love of master and disciples through the last lesson.
– But teacher, you have said that that tile had been too long
– Two more minutes for you to finalize. No more time.
– Teacher, we agree with the majority’s idea, but we want to propose an alternate name as Love of master and disciples, thus this song has two names as The last lesson and Love of master and disciples, and each of us can remember the name that we prefer.
That was the way they play and respect each other’s idea. When some one feels that his thinking is appreaciated, his creativity will shine. If we force children to learn by rote, they will probably think that there is no room for changes; then they follow exactly what the teachers tell. Have the right to change, have the creativity strengthened.
Those are the lessons for children. Now I am about to tell you about the class of teachers, out of whom thirteen people can play đàn tranh, and seven know about guitar and organ but have no idea about đàn tranh. I opened a class to teach đàn tranh to all of them, starting from neither the notes xừ sang xê cống nor do re mi fa sol, but going direct to specific songs. For ten hours, Master Thiếu Quang taught the learners two songs, namely Khổng Minh tọa lầu and Long hổ hội. On the class closing ceremony, the teachers, who attended my class, played the songs to accompany the singing of the children.
During three weeks, there were twelve school days, each of which had two lessons. Thus, we made a total twenty-four memorable lessons. The teachers told me that three weeks was a short time, but it changed their mindset and inspired them with the pedagogy that they have not gotten from their many years of teaching.
When I went back to France, many groups of Vietnamese people asked me to have a talk about the matter of teaching method. Among those talks that I had, the most touching one was the talk to pharmacists and doctors. At the Vietnamese Cultural Days that were held the last few years, the biggest number of pharmacists and doctors who attended a talk was around sixty, but it reached to two hundred, because people knew that I would be the speaker. I also remember clearly about some audience who are not pharmacists or doctors. There was an eight-year old boy, who clapped his hands whenever I told about the answer that the children in my music class in Vietnam gave. He was sitting there, listening to my entire talk without being fussy or making tricks. An elderly Vietnamese lady (one hundred and two years old) took my hands and said: “It has been a long time since my birthday to this moment, but this is the first time I see that children know that much knowledge and perform so well”. A ninety-nine year old doctor came to listen to me with a broken arm. After the talk, she asked me: “Mr. Hải, you really moved me, because I know much about Western things; I know do re mi fa sol, but not the Vietnamese traditional notes. I cannot answer any question that you asked the children in your class. Shame on me”!
After telling the stories about my music classes in Vietnam, I showed the audience the film made by me of those classes; the film of lively lessons, teaching about Vietnamese traditional musical instruments, and the memorable closing ceremony.
Listening to Prof. Trần’s talk in the cassette, I was literally enlightened about the meaning of language and the pedagogy method of “Playing is learning, and vice versa” in modern era. Learning now is that students take the teacher’s suggestions and give their own ideas. Learning now is that students play and invent new things based on the teachers’ guides. “If we force children to learn by rote, they will probably think that there is no room for changes, then follow exactly what the teachers tell. Have the right to change, have the creativity strenghthened”. Such a profound and comprehensible conclusion in pedagogy.
. When having talks at the Vietnamese Institute for Musicology, Prof. Trần often called the staff by “cháu”, a vocative used to call young family members.
. On September 11, 2001, two airplanes were hijacked by teams of terrorists, each of which crashed into one of the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan, New York City, causing two collisions that happened in a space of eighteen minutes. Two hours later, the towers collapsed.
. According to the exchange rate from US Dollar to Vietnamdong in 2000: 1 US Dollar = 14,214 Vietnamese Dong