Transposition 2007-2009 -A joint venture of development between prominent musical institutions in Norway and Vietnam.

Like the opposing arcs of a great parenthesis, each delineating land’s end, Norway and Vietnam enclose the enormous Eurasian continent from North-West to South-East. -Such a geographical embrace could spawn many metaphors, with or without bearing on this project says the man behind it, Geir Johnson, -what is important is the immediate appearance of similarities and dissimilarities that the first phase of the project has revealed.

Geir Johnson (foto:

Press release Ultima / Translated by Christian Lysvåg

In the exchange of art and culture all parties are both benefactor and beneficiary, and in this case the exchange will unquestionably result in the furthering of expertise of the involved Norwegian musical scenes; by way of inspiration and the transcending of barriers and, ultimately, resulting in novel artistic expressions. For the greater Norwegian audience it will ensure access to a different culture via Norwegian artists, something which will create interest, curiosity and knowledge regarding Vietnamese culture and thus lay the foundations for increased respect regarding both an alien culture as well as our own.

Transposition has been developed by Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival. It is a wide-ranging project of development and collaboration between prominent musical institutions in Norway and Vietnam. The joint venture is carried out with funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the period 2007-2009.

We have chosen to call the project Transposition, says Ultima director Geir Johnson, which means “placing something in a new context, or reshaping it in a new language, style or medium.” By transferring competence from Norwegian music to the active entity of Vietnamese music, and by inviting their musicians and ensembles to interact with us, this is exactly what transpires; a transposition of knowledge. We think this concept accurately delineates the aim of the project. The venture’s Norwegian partners are Barrat Due Institute of Music, BIT20 Ensemble, Bodø Sinfonietta, The Musical Branch of the Armed Forces, MIC- The Music Information Centre, The National Centre of Expertise for Artistic and Cultural Education, and the Norwegian Association of Composers.

Johnson explains in more detail: -The fundamental idea of Transposition is to create a basis for interaction between Norwegian and Vietnamese musicians and to transfer expertise, on diverse levels, from Norwegian to Vietnamese musical institutions. Crucially, we must see to the development of an internal dynamic within the Vietnamese institutions regarding the upkeep and maintenance of instruments, the correct handling of sheet music and copy-rights, and the knowledge of technical execution and codes of performance. And lastly, we want to bring Vietnamese music, in live form, to Norway.

But why should the edifice of European music be erected in Vietnam? The answer is benevolently simple: the Vietnamese want it. The country has an historical link to Europe, chiefly due to more than a hundred years of French presence. But Vietnam also enjoys a vibrant musical environment notable for its many foreign-educated musicians.

When asked why Ultima wants to get involved in Vietnam Johnson replies: -Ultima has always sought to collaborate with other institutions in order to create the optimum of artistic experiences here in Norway. Then it struck us; what would happen if we applied our methods and expertise in an effort to assist the musical establishment in a developing country?

In 2005 an invitation from Vietnam made this idea pertinent, as the encounter with the Vietnamese musical establishment revealed a sincere interest in developing the institutions and the talents, whilst lacking most of the means to do so such as good instruments, rehearsal facilities, note sheets, information strategies, and international contacts.

By utilizing the Ultima network we were in a position to remedy many of these deficiencies, and over the past year we have cooperated with musical institutions in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to examine how this can be done. With valuable assistance from the Norwegian Embassy in Hanoi and financial support form the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we are now able to instigate a project with a preliminary duration of three years.

Four Vietnamese institutions are involved in the project: Hanoi Conservatory of Music, Vietnam National Symphony Orchestra in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory of Music and Ho Chi Minh City Opera and Symphony Orchestra.

Ultima has employed two people in administrative posts to carry out Transposition, in close dialogue with Vietnamese authorities. In Hanoi Thuy Thanh Nguyen has already worked with the venture for six months, responsible for carrying out Vietnamese projects and events.

In Oslo Ultima recently acquired the services of Chi Ton as project coordinator. Her main tasks will be administrative counsel, planning and executing all assignments in Norway, and, in virtue of her background and expertise, to convey and increase the cultural exchange.

-We are delighted to see that Transposition is being embraced by the Vietnamese milieu in Norway, says Chi Ton, –We’ve been in touch with several Vietnamese organisations, which are looking forward to the unfolding of the project in Norway and Vietnam; both regarding the general level of cultural exchange and regarding individuals involved. Another very important aspect of this project is its contribution towards giving young Vietnamese people in Norway a greater sense of belongingness to –and pride in- their native culture.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs harbours great expectations towards the project. The Minister of International Development, Erik Solheim, states that the Ministry’s international culture strategy is based on cooperative equality, and emphasises that the project will entail increased knowledge and contact between the two countries.

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