Tri Minh is Vietnam’s “first truly electronic artist”. The groundbreaking musician graduated from Hanoi Conservatory of Music, played in jazz clubs in the capital, then got into electronic music. “I’m a classically trained pianist and composer that discovered jazz and improvisation and then fused those things with a respect for traditional music…” he tells us.
Đọc bài viết bằng tiếng Việt.
He’s taken his ambient and synthesized sounds around the world – from Denmark to Danang (in fact, he’s been based in the Danish capital of Copenhagen for the last six years). And he’s released albums like 2015’s Ambient Works.
“I guess music is the only tool I have learned to master in my life…” Tri Minh shrugs. He’s grateful for the tiger parenting he received growing up in Hanoi. “My mum forced me to play the piano and my dad introduced me to different teachers at the Hanoi Conservatory of Music while taking my music exams…”
What was the moment you connected to music for the first time?
I was 18. Vietnam was changing fast and opening up quickly. I discovered music was more than just a hobby or passion. It could help me earn money to cover the costs of my English classes. And I discovered I could flirt with girls more successfully once I became a musician.
When I entered university, I knew music was my life. I committed to doing music and letting it become my life’s calling.
How does music fit with your daily life? When are where do you listen?
I listen to music a lot. But, I listen differently to most people. When I listen, I’m thinking of the person who made the music and the decisions they took to produce the track.
How have your listening habits evolved since you first started listening?
Like a lot of rebellious teens, I listened to rock and pop growing up. But slowly, I discovered the world of electronic music, and it took over my consciousness…and my listening playlists.
How have the different cultures of Scandinavia and Southeast Asia influenced your music?
I’ve been really lucky. And I’ve benefited and incorporated ideas from both cultures – and from many other places in the world.
Southeast Asia is vibrant and dynamic. Its energy has propelled me to constantly seek out something new in my compositions. Scandinavia is more tranquil, more meditative. It helped me to let things go and to step back and reflect on my work in a less subjective and more democratic way.
What’s the most underrated genre of music? And the most overrated?
The most underrated genre of music is traditional music. I suppose it seems to be not cool for the young generation. But it can be really cool. And the most overrated? Electro-pop. It rose and disappeared like lots of shallow trends do.
What do you listen to secretly when no one’s around?
I do listen to some commercial pop music. I think producing the perfect pop song seems easy, but it’s really hard and I have an admiration for the people doing it.
You have one track to make someone love music. What do you play them?
“The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel. It’s a very simple song, but it’s also a very powerful song.
And which of your own tracks would you play someone so that they understand you?
I’d play them “Ripple” from my Space Within album.
Which song would you like to have played at your wedding? And at your funeral?
Tell us about the ten tracks you’ve chosen for this guest mix?
For this mix, I’ve combined some of my own works with some of the masters of ambient music. First is my track “Calm”. It’s based upon a short piano riff. It’s easy and meandering – perfect as a backdrop to work or when you’re relaxing or waking up with a cup of coffee.
Next is Dmitry Evgrafov’s “Anthem”. Dmitry Evgrafov is a self-taught Russian sound artist and composer. And “Anthem” is a very subtle composition. It’s gently experimental too – a track to enliven your sense of musicality and sensitivity to sound.
Following that is Carlos Cipa’s “And She Was”. Cipa is, like me, a classically trained musician who moved into electronica. This track is lovely. It’s like looking into a forest or peering up at the sky.
After that, a master of modern ambient music, Nils Frahm, and the track “Says”. It’s nuanced and trance-inducing. Listen with your eyes closed. Then we calm things down even more with Icelandic artist Olafur Arnald’s spellbinding minimalism. I’ve chosen “Dalue-Island Songs V”.
Then there’s “Avril 14th” by Aphex Twin. No ambient mix would be complete without Richard James, better known as Aphex Twin – and lots of other monikers during his 27-year career. This track is from his 2001 album, Drukqs. It’s a piano composition, but like lots of his work, there’s something else going on here. He used a Disklavier which is a kind of piano with a mechanism that reads MIDI data. The result is a classic.
Then we have my track, “HANOI at Noon”. A nice ambient track to listen to at lunchtime.
After that, another master – Philip Glass and his “Night on the balcony (from the screens)”. Then Nils Landgren’s “Fragile” is a remake of a classic, and another nice song for a quiet afternoon.
And finally, a song that brings this mix and my love for piano and electronic music triumphantly together, Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “Uoon II”.
Photos by Nam Tran Duy.