Research Seminar: Le-Tuyen Nguyen

From Cochinchina with Love

In 1900, the voice of a woman from Saigon was recorded in Dr. Léon Azoulay’s collection of wax cylinder recordings at the Paris World Exposition. Singing a popular love song of the nineteenth-century with a Southern Vietnamese accent, the female vocalist told the classic story of a lonely woman longing for her love. To date, this is the first recording of music from Cochinchina. This lecture will discuss the social-historical and musical contexts of this newly-found recording; and also explore the literary/mythological allusions embedded in the lyrics. The discussion will identify the song’s modal structure, melodic and rhythmic organisations. Based on the study, this lecture will highlight the similarities between the musical materials found in this love song and its contemporary tài tử instrumental repertoire, and also the classic vọng-cổ song Dạ cổ hoài lang which emerged twenty years later.

* Note: There will be a live special demonstration on the wax recording process, featuring the original 1908 Edison cylinder phonograph of the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia.


Dr Le-Tuyen Nguyen is an Australian composer, researcher, and teacher. Born in South Vietnam, he settled in Sydney in the 1990s. He studied music and education at the University of New South Wales and completed his doctorate at the Australian National University. His music has been performed in Asia, Europe, Australia, and the USA. He has worked in leadership positions within the New South Wales Department of Education and a Teaching Fellowship at the Australian National University School of Music. More information:

Gerry O'Neill is a Senior Disc Preservationist at the National Films and Sounds Archive.

Members of the public or those unable to attend in person may join via Zoom here.
Meeting ID: 864 9883 0235 Password: 116497

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