As Van-Anh Vo (who often goes by Vanessa in the States) performed Gnossienne No. 3 on the dan bau, playing up the instrument’s haunting moans, the audience sat transfixed. Satie’s well-worn melody suddenly pulsed with fresh life.
Vo speaks with moving passion about the impact of American diversity on the evolution of her musical voice since she emigrated from Vietnam in the late 1990s. An award-winning traditional performer and educator in her native country, Vo has found a particular freedom in the myriad genres and styles of music that surround her here—an influence that has filtered into both her musical ideas and the instruments and techniques she uses to communicate them. “I think I find great opportunity as a musician and composer here,” Vo explains. “I can do what I want. I can follow my inner voice—what I hear in my mind and what I feel I need to express.”
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