Bầu Trời Âm Nhạc Trịnh Công Sơn
KHẢO LUẬN VỀ BÙI GIÁNG & TRỊNH CÔNG SƠN
NGUYEN QUANG THANH biên soạn



1.

Night after night shells pour on towns
Sweeper let broom pause for listen
Shells over here mother wake up
Shells over here children sorrow
Flares on mountains flare at midnight

Night after night shells pour on towns
Sweeper let broom pause for listen
Each of night flights children wake up
Dig up shelters with gold skin-fresh
All nights light up by country eyes

Village bombs pour thousands of tons
Thousands of tons bombs pour on fields
Vietnamese houses burned end-hamlet
Grenade, claymore thousand vehicles
Thousand vehicles move to the towns
Pool of mother sister bodies

Night after night shells pour on towns
Sweeper let broom pause for listen
Shells pour each night future fade out
Shells as prayers without prayer
Child lost childhood wait for something

Night after night shells pour on towns
Sweeper let broom pause for listen
Shells pour each night lull gold skin-fresh
Shells familiar as sad prelude
Children’s too young to know country
(Trinh Cong Son, Lull the Night by Shells)

Maybe the people of the younger generations do not know much about the pain Vietnamese suffered during the period of over-twenty-year war, the war that ended nearly 4 decades ago.

Twenty years long of war, twenty years long of tears. It is really so hard for the youth today to know the facts of this tearful war of the past. But it is something worth learning, by means of the songs from Trinh Cong Son, to understand as much as possible the pain from war at that time. What happened for people, how much sad people stood, what disasters this war forced the country to? If the life ever ask yourselves the questions like that, because the country is your motherland, and because those people might be your grandparents, your parents, your brothers, your sisters, or your friends’ relatives. Most of those people are the people of the older generations who quit the scene.

Who would tell you the reliable story?
Songs Trinh Cong Son composed for the theme “Country” of his songs would tell you a lot of the valuable facts, the remarkable events, and the strong images of the painful war. The facts he said, the events he wrote, the images he shot maybe not something recorded by the historians, or did speaking by the politicians. What he a witness, a musician, an artist said, he said what his human heart said, what a normal Vietnamese said, what his emotion could not stop to move to tears.

Corpses’ everywhere in this cold rain
Young body’s lying next to old body
Which one’s my sister in this shelter
In flame areas, close to farming plot

Drift on the river
Dry on the field
On the town rooftop
On the bendy road

Lonely dead bodies
Under the temple roof
Inside the town church
At abandoned house
(Trinh Cong Son, Song for the Bodies)

At the wartime in Vietnam, nearly no day calm for Vietnamese. There were the clashes somewhere per day. There are dead and wound somewhere per night. Threats may be on the watch and aim at any family from anywhere. People did not live in peace but in worry, day after days, month after months, year after years. Initially, it might be the pain of some small groups of people who suffered directly from the conflicts in the early years of the war. The pain had become too big later and expanded to the other larger groups. It became the pain of the big families, the pain of the larger communities, the pain of more than one party, the pain of more than one nation. It broke out and once became the pain of the world, the pain of the human conscience, of the people who still love people. However, almost the dead bodies still were the Vietnamese ones, and the most painful pain still belong to the poor Vietnamese people who were loudly called the ones to be protected, the ones the different sides fighting for. No matter what the words of political standpoints said, these millions of bodies from sides had no chance to say any word to defend themselves through the periods of decades. Fighting happened everywhere. It climbed up and down the mountain. It trampled upon the wet land and the dry land. It swept over on the fresh-seeds field and the harvested field. It rained down outside and inside the towns. The guns did not differentiate where the battlefield or not. The shells had no time to learn the sense of mercy for the bodies came from the school, hospital, temple, or church… It did not give up any space for the humanitarian reason. All places could strangely become the deadly battlefront.

Body next bodies
Underneath the bridge
Damaged house’s corner
Combat trenches throughout

Bodies were withered
Everywhere brushes
Behind silent street
On the bumpy roads
(Trinh Cong Son, Song for the Bodies)

Fighting happened every time, sun and rain, day and night, month after month, dry season then wet season, year after year. Gun and ammunition threaten everyone. The echo of sounds of bomb and canon and mines and the others may come from any direction. It may appear above the head, under the feet, and around the ears. The fear comes from inside and outside the heart. Enemy seems appearing everywhere. People did not trust people. People looked at people with suspicion.

Long day live with worry
Every night shoot and bomb
People’s all the strangers
Enemies to each others

Prison in my country
Vietnamese forgot root
Day by day build the hate
Day by day ruined bomb trace

Viet Mother twenty years
Soften bones
Waits for the holy time
Her skin - rice color
Protecting the country values

Long day in my country
Children now are adults
An old man looks worry
Man waits for storms calm down

Man has sat twenty years
Sad and gay bitter wine
Viet people’s all gold skin
Mother misses her children
(Trinh Cong Son, Long Day in My Country)

People may see nearly everyday with their own eyes the different ways of sudden dead of the relatives, friends and fellow-citizens. Irrespective of men or women, soldier or civilian, adult or children, millions of people killed, millions wounded, millions disabled forever. Countless people displaced for years, taking refugee somewhere far from their home too many years. The sadness was too sad to call. The darkness was too dark to say. The pain was too painful to cry. The fear was too often to try to escape. The hope sloped closer to the hopelessness. The bad situation lasted too long to keep patient to wait. Somewhere people had gone to crazy.

An old man in a park
A mad man in city
A man lied out of breath
Man listens sound from bomb

Man has sat twenty years
Look at flares bright the night
Weapons’ usual with children
People lie with one’s wounds

Viet Mother twenty years
Supple bones
Waits for the holy time
Her skin - rice color
Protecting the country values

“Song for the Bodies”, “Long Day of My Country”, “Lull the Night by Shells”, so on are the stories from musician Trinh Cong Son, who is one of the important witnesses of the war in the 20th century of the country. His stories are not the emotionless stories tell us something dry, or something use for a purpose of self-seeking. On the contrary, his stories are the emotional songs that tell us the valuable lessons of peace, the lessons from the war, the lessons of love, and the lessons from hostility. These lessons somewhere did wake up people together to see the fact of bloodshed, to find out the way to escape the harsh condition people suffered during the period of war and postwar, to find out the way to sit down together to talk in peace instead of cool shoot together so long like that, the time of more than twenty years.



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The Pain From The War
By NGUYEN QUANG THANH
AP photo, 1965
Khảo Luận Về Bùi Giáng và Trịnh Công Sơn  -  Nguyen Quang Thanh biên soạn
Website: www.nguyenquangthanh.com  -  tác giả tự trình bày


Trinh Cong Son, an extraordinary musician, he has composed all his life for the world of love - human love. Trinh Cong Son, the special bird, he has sung the songs by his full heart, by an ardent love for the fellow creature, for human life. However, what the reward he received was not all the love. Beside the big love from millions of people who loved his songs, it did not exclude the complaint, the misunderstanding from the various people during the war time and even far after the war ended years. Times, he became the goal to be criticized by the different groups of faction. One example: See, with the single song “Lull the Night by Shells”, Trinh Cong Son was condemned by the different sides. They considered him as the man of the other side, the supporter of their enemy. No side sounds please his position of the songs. Read these paragraphs of the song below, in which, it made people of one side think that the song accused its side’s force who fired the shells to the town. These thought: “Man who accused our side using the shells during the fighting is exactly the man of other side – our enemy”.

Night after night shells pour on towns
Sweeper let broom pause for listen
Shells over here mother wake up
Shells over here children sorrow
Flares on mountains flare at midnight

And read these other paragraphs below of the same song, in which, it caused people of the second side’s force  shocked that the song accused them who used warplanes during the war. These thought: “Man who accused our side using the warplanes during the fighting is exactly the man of the opposite side – our enemy”.

Night after night shells pour on towns
Sweeper let broom pause for listen
Each of night flights children wake up
Dig up shelters with gold skin-fresh
All nights light up by country eyes

Village bombs pour thousands of tons
Thousands of tons bombs pour on fields
Vietnamese houses burned end-hamlet

Grenade, claymore thousand vehicles
Thousand vehicles move to the towns
Pool of mother sister bodies
(Trinh Cong Son, Shells Lull at Night)

Because it was the war, there are of course the hostile forces. Though the war ended, the pain did not end. Various types of wound remain. Maybe the most dangerous and bitter type of wound remaining is the serious and widening divisions in Vietnamese society. The debate of Trinh Cong Son case is one of these signs. No side thought him friend. Any side was angry with him for something. No side set him a pair room during the war and after the war ended. This situation is the big bitter, not for him a loved musician only, but for the millions others who would have been the important forces to rebuild the country, to make the country home for every Vietnamese. “Who knows this pain, who knows?” He sings bitterly:

Honey sweet love
Honey from lips
Gall honey love
Bitter from life

Love’s like ocean
Large with shoulders
Large with shoulders
Love’s like ocean
Narrow with arms
Arms of a man missed way

There you will come to
Where you come to
None' forever
Moon hangs above the waves
Dissolve into
Love far away
How send dim love to sleep
Who knows this pain who knows
(TCS, Quite Alone Here)

Again, he sometime goes to crazy. He had to select a hard option. Sing more or not? Do music for life or sit as deaf and dump? He cried alone at night. If someone loves, he loves with the ocean shoulders.  Without love, any action, any thinking will be narrow as the arms of a man who is on a wrong way. Life looks like the shadow of moon hanging above the waves. Everything is unstable. None is forever. Who know his pain? All these hard-to-say things he actually scattered said in the other theme of songs which was called “the human destiny”. Below song is one of them:

From far very
Anxious come here
While heart’s outside with sunshine

Spring goes quickly
Ten years washing
Fade away a leaf of autumn

Real man’s dismissed
Silly my life
I have faded me myself

Wake up sunset
Hands hold long hairs
Life’s glimmering nothing

Rearranging
Day as it’s day
More impatient once in love

Tornado hurts bird
Stay on mountain
Bitterly wait for something

Around hear from sky
Resounding laugh
Whose saxophone frozen me

Perfume powder
Recall a day
Set time for have fun later
(TCS, Fade Away A Leaf of Autumn)

Who know this situation he had reluctant stood inside? When his heart didn't belong with the room of dark walls, his heart was flying outside in the bright sunshine sky. He was very anxious coming here from a different space - a space which was quite strange to this room. Nowhere here is really for him. He belongs to the others. He had often to leave the room to sit quietly somewhere else, at a quiet place, where the Hearts have ever sat.
What a place! What a hard-to-tell place! What a fine place, a place not same as the normal place, a place without place. It seems to be the huge home for  enlightened people to go to and come from, alone or not alone. He sings again:

High sky, wide ground
I go alone
Still me alone
Life seems endless
I lone return
Return alone with me ..
Love’s innocent
Leave me sadness
Like blood’s drop
Quite alone here
High sky, wide ground
I go alone
Still me alone
Life seems endless
I lone return
Return alone with me
(TCS, Quite Alone Here)

As he often forced to did riddle along with his songs, he shot the seen-and-unseen facts, warning us something and left the remaining things for people to think about. People have learned already the simple lesson in life:
After the rain, the sun shines. When the dark over, the light comes. Beyond hopeless, the hope appears.


NGUYEN QUANG THANH
Sep. 2013

Other Essay: Olden Girl and Friend Diem
Trịnh Công Sơn và Đinh Cường tại Huế