Host (H): Thuy Trinh and
Khanh Hoang would like to welcome you.
Pham Duy (PD): Good morning.
H: Recently, Khanh Hoang, many listeners,
as well as I, have seen you in meetings with
poet Supreme Master Ching Hai. I heard that
you have recently used Supreme Master Ching
Hai's poems in your music. Please explain
if your composing style is leaning toward
a transition into spirituality. Is this true?
PD: Spiritual music, to be exact. You must
understand that I started writing pop songs,
songs for the country of Vietnam in the midst
of its struggle for freedom and independence.
Thereafter, I switched to writing love songs;
and of course, at an older age, I turned to
writing spiritual songs. They are no longer
songs that deal with society or romantic love,
but rather the humanity inside us. Thus, it
is called spiritual music; and on the path
of searching for the right poems for the songs
that you've just mentioned, I met poet Supreme
Master Ching Hai.
H: Was it a coincidence then?
PD: No, it was not a coincidence at all. I
have researched and wanted to find people
who are on the same spiritual path as I am,
people who have poems, paintings or music
that could be a perfect match.
H: Is poet Supreme Master Ching Hai the first
one whose poems you've put to music?
PD: She is not the first one. If we talk about
spiritual poetry, it has been around since
the 11th century, over such a long period
of time. Even in the 21st century, or 20th
to be exact, there have been many poets who
wrote spiritual poems. However, since we've
always lived in such a state... Vietnam has
always lived through turbulence. Therefore,
no one ever had the time to catch a glimpse
of these poems which I think are true poems,
for instance, the poem “Grotto of the
Yellow Flowers” by Pham Thien Thu, or
the ten poems which I've composed into ten
spiritual songs. Even today, the people back
in our country – the composers, writers,
and poets – who are now tired of war,
also turned to spiritual music. I want to
refer to the Communist party members who also
have written spiritual poems, Tram Manh Hao,
for example. Or a poet from the South, Nguyen
Duc Son, whose pen name is Sao Tren Rung (Star
in the Forest), he also writes many good spiritual
poems. Then many such poems have also been
written abroad. In recent days particularly,
I have followed the activities of an organization
with many members, Supreme Master Ching Hai's.
She has a lot of paintings that I like very
much. I have seen the inner beauty in Her
paintings. And of course, I have read the
collection of Her poems, and it seems that
these poems have also been released in the
forms of CDs and cassettes.
H: So what were your impressions when you
used Supreme Master Ching Hai's poems to compose
PD: I would like to also point out that I
am not the only one who uses Supreme Master
Ching Hai's poems for their music. My colleagues,
Mr. Nhat Ngan, Mr. Phuong Vu, also use Her
poems to compose music.
H: From reading the newspaper, I know that
there is also composer Thu Ho.
PD: Yes, not to mention Le Dinh. I myself
have composed two songs.
H: What are the names of these two songs?
PD: One is titled "A Lonesome Night”
which I apologize for changing the name to
"Lonesome." The second song is "Existence
and Nothingness." Perhaps you can introduce
"A Lonesome Night" to the listeners.
This song will be sung by my son, Duy Quang.
The music was written by me. There are two
songs; it could be either “Existence
and Nothingness” or “A Lonesome
Night.” Let's listen to one of them.
H: We would like to invite you to listen to
a spiritual song composed by Pham Duy, lyrics
from a poem by Supreme Master Ching Hai...
like I’ve never been so lonely...
Sad like I’ve never been so sad...
Like a bird looking for a cozy nest,
Lost in the midst of a vast firmament!
My love, please come by and visit.
Hands extending, longer than the night,
Light my soul with your mysterious eyes
So life won’t be a gloomy passage.
Oh beloved, sing for me lullabies of tender
Timeless songs of precious and innocent years.
Journey to the realm of legends together.
Let sadness ripen and fall into a river of
Tonight only the muse and I remain;
Tomorrow is far away, the night still lingers.
I lie here, hiding my soul behind my flowing
And listen as life’s burdens fall upon
my lonely shoulders.
H: You have just listened to the song "A
Lonesome Night," one of Supreme Master
Ching Hai's poems composed into music by Pham
Duy. Now we would like to come back to Mr.
Pham Duy. Please let our listeners know if
you are inclined to compose spiritual songs
from now on.
PD: Yes, I think an old man like me should
not write love songs anymore. Secondly, as
for pop music, I feel that I am fairly incompetent
in dealing with the situations nowadays. Politically
speaking, I would not dare to write songs
with a political nature anymore. It should
be left to the youth, today’s heroes.
H: So, is spiritual music reserved only for
the elderly or religious people?
PD: No, I feel that it is not just for the
elderly. Even the younger generations are
able to see the inner spiritual beauty. In
my time, for example, the younger generation
was dragged along by the current of life.
If they didn't participate in the French resistance
movement, they would not have any ideals.
Today's youths are living in a time of peace.
In such a materialistic society, there are
many young people who also want to find something
more beautiful than just the society of "dollars."
I think it is not just for the elderly. When
I said elderly, I was only referring to myself.
H: Oh, no! What I meant was I enjoyed listening
to the song very much, but it was difficult
to understand. And then the second song which
you referred to as "Existence and Nothingness,"
truly, I did not understand what is meant
by “Existence and nothingness."
I don't know if you have time to elaborate
on this song?
PD: It would be redundant if I elaborate on
its meaning. Just listening to the lyrics
we will understand. But I would like to talk
more about Supreme Master Ching Hai's poems,
which I've used to set to music. As a result
I'm able to see clearly that, for example,
the poem only talks of life in front of our
eyes. But the poet looks at it in a very spiritual
way – that if we step one step forward,
or only one small step backward, then our
life would be changed. Now, let's listen to
that song. Then I will explain it later, only
the musical aspect, not the spiritual one.
That I would not dare at all!
H: Yes, before listening to the second song,
may I ask you one more question about your
opinion of spiritual poetry abroad as opposed
to those in the years prior to 1975?
PD: It can be said that spiritual poetry has
not changed. The spiritual songs that have
been written since the 9th, 10th, 19th or
20th centuries are the same, whether spiritual
poems in those times were sung by the people
or only recited by them. For example, in the
poem "Existence and Nothingness"
by poet Supreme Master Ching Hai, I could
see the philosophies of the poets from the
5th to the 7th century. Therefore, if after
listening to the song "Existence and
Nothingness," which you will be doing
shortly, and you are not moved, then it means
that I have succeeded. Listening to music,
especially Aulacese music, one often feels
sad or frustrated. Therefore, we then have
to "vow to quarter the body and drink
the blood of the enemy, " or we have
to love each other, to love intimately. But
by listening to spiritual songs that have
been composed from the poems of spiritual
nature, you will not be drawn into the emotional
tie. It will take us completely into a state
of existence-nothingness, nothingness-existence.
That's it! Explaining Zen should be like that.
H: Existence means nothingness; nothingness
PD: Something like that. Therefore, it can't
be explained by logic; nor can its songs be
listened to by worldly people. Now, please
listen to the following song "Existence
H: While we wait, I would like to ask another
question. According to you, what is the trend
of music being created by the people living
PD: In my opinion, I am sure that it is not
“in the country” or “out
of the country;” modern music has had
over fifty years to take shape and to evolve
already. For other composers, potentially
there have always been three trends, which
I've already mentioned. As for the others
who compose or not compose spiritual music,
I don't know much because I do not have to
research about them. If I do, it's just for
myself; I don’t have any information
about other musical works.
H: Following is the song titled "Existence
and Nothingness." We would like to invite
our audience to listen to it – lyrics
by Supreme Master Ching Hai, musical composition
by Pham Duy.
step forward is to arrive at the Origin,
One inch back is to return to the suffering
Year after year, it’s just the same
Not much difference between this mundane Earth
and home of the Saints...
I always thought Nirvana is so and so,
Had no idea I was wrong all along!
At the moment of enlightenment, where are
the four elements?
Alas, the cosmos is but a very long dream!
Now I understand the Buddha’s silence
for forty years
Bodhidharma also spoke not a word.
In the future, where do I turn for liberation?
Where are the sentient beings to be saved
H: You've just listened to the voice of Duy
Quang in the song " Existence and Nothingness"
with lyrics from Supreme Master Ching Hai's
poem, composed into music by Pham Duy. We'd
like to come back to Pham Duy. Please let
us know if the two songs you've just allowed
us to listen to, which were "Existence
and Nothingness" and "A Lonesome
Night" have already been released in
CDs or cassettes?
PD: These two songs have already been recorded
along with the songs of other composers who
also used Supreme Master Ching Hai's poems
as lyrics for their songs. I am sure that
in about one month, those ten spiritual songs
will be released.
H: Therefore, in the future the trend of Pham
Duy is to transform spiritual poems into music.
Hence, we will have a chance to continue listening
to poems and spiritual songs in the form of
musical creation by Pham Duy. Thank you for
coming here and sharing with us the poetic
creations of poet Supreme Master Ching Hai
as well as the musical creations of Pham Duy.
On behalf of the radio station, we'd like
to first wish you abundant wealth, a happy
and healthy life with your children and grandchildren,
and your continuation in creating beautiful
music that will always be treasured in the
PD: Yes, thank you, Thuy Trinh. Thank you,
the station, and thank you, all listeners.
Note: Composer Phuong Vu, who used eleven
poems of Supreme Master Ching Hai to compose
his music, was also interviewed by Vietnam