Stefan Östersjö is a leading classical guitarist specialising in the performance of contemporary music. As a soloist, chamber musician, sound artist, and improviser, he has released more than twenty CDs and toured Europe, the USA, and Asia. He has collaborated extensively with composers and in the creation of works involving choreography, film, video, performance art, and music theatre. Between 1995 and 2012 he was the artistic director of Ensemble Ars Nova, a leading Swedish ensemble for contemporary music. He is a founding member of the Vietnamese group The Six Tones, which since 2006 has developed into a platform for interdisciplinary intercultural collaboration. As a member of the Landscape Quartet he has developed an articulated performative practice within ecological sound art. As a soloist he has worked with conductors such as Lothar Zagrosek, Péter Eötvös, Pierre-André Valade, Mario Venzago, and Andrew Manze. Stefan Östersjö is chaired professor of Musical Performance at Piteå School of Music, Luleå University of Technology, guest professor at Ingesund School of Music, Karlstad University of Technology, Professor II at Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, and associate professor at DXARTS, University of Washington.
Stateless Mind #5
Duration: 30 mins
The first part of this performance explores the Vọng Cổ, a traditional piece from the south of Vietnam, music which also has been a centerpiece in southern style theatre. By situating fragmented versions of the piece in a frame of free improvisation, we seek to bring out different facets of the music, and consider how its expressive framework remains current in the present day.
In this performance, we also return to experimentation we made with traditional Tuồng theatre, launched in a collaboration with the choreographer Marie Fahlin, the director Jörgen Dahlqvist and our group The Six Tones. We will use fragments of this work, centered around a single character, the female general Đào Tam Xuân. The conceptual point of departure in the original project was the notion that Tuồng theatre could be seen as a kind of proto-feminist expression in Vietnamese culture, and this female general is one example. Đào Tam Xuân is a tale of a female general whose husband was executed due to the ill doings of the queen, and whose son was killed when attempting to prevent the execution. The scene we return to is when she receives this news, and builds on the choreographic expression of grief and anguish in this scene.
Stateless Mind #4
Duration: 30 mins
In this performance, the Vietnamese đàn tranh player Nguyễn Thanh Thủy and the Swedish guitarist Stefan Östersjö, two members of the intercultural group The Six Tones, present a series of experimental performances of iconic Vietnamese popular music, often referred to as Yellow Music. This music has become emblematic of Vietnamese diasporic culture, and their experimental versions seek to give the music renewed currency and allow for a renegotiation of its meaning.
Stateless Mind #3
Yellow music in diaspora
The video Echoic Memory contains footage from zoom interviews with thirteen Vietnamese women living in diaspora. It was made in spring 2021, during the Covid-19 pandemic, and features an experimental recording of the song Phôi Pha by The Six Tones with the singer Ngô Hồng Gấm and a solo đàn tranh version by Nguyễn Thanh Thủy of the song Còn Thương Rau Đắng Mọc Sau Hè. In this video we encounter first- and second-generation women of both voluntary and forced immigrants from Vietnam.
The work has been carried out as part of the postdoctoral artistic research project “Music and Identity in Diaspora: novel perspectives on female Vietnamese immigrants in Scandinavia”, and it builds on the author’s experience as a professional đàn tranh player on the Vietnamese traditional music scene, and on her long-term collaboration with performers and composers from the Vietnamese/Swedish group The Six Tones. The purpose of the project is to determine how music contributes to identity formation among Vietnamese immigrants, with a particular focus on the role of different musical traditions in this context. The aims of the project are (a) to provide a more robust understanding of how music contributes to identity and social cohesion in immigrant communities; (b) to identify patterns of gendered behaviour in immigrant communities across generations; and (c) to develop effective strategies—including experimental music practices and other artistic expressions—that promote reduction of social inequalities among immigrant communities.