She lends a trippy sound to Frenchman Erik Satie's Gnossienne No. 3, performed on the dan Bau, the traditional Vietnamese monocord. The instrument ("invented by beggers on the street") has a single string, but by bending it with a kind of whammy bar made from buffalo horn, Vo creates a haunting landscape of growls, hushed vibrato and graceful slides, all with the exquisite phrasing of an opera singer. Vo's infectious enthusiasm erupts in her own compositions. "Three-Mountain Pass" (also the title of her recent album), for voice and Hang drum, is based on the sensuously evocative texts of Ho Xuan Huong, a groundbreaking female poet (and concubine) from the 18th century.
And with "Go Hunting," Vo introduces another traditional instrument, the dan T'rung, a bamboo xylophone from Vietnam's south highlands. This instrument, which looks a bit like a skeleton, is struck with double-headed mallets. The theme starts peacefully at a relaxed pace, but heats up to a dizzying frenzy as Vo's mallets become indistinguishable blurs of speed. Her adventurous spirit moved her from Vietnam to the U.S. — another risk, but one that paid off with more opportunities for composing; she even won an Emmy Award for her work on a documentary film.
Vo is also fond of collaborating with new-music ensembles like the Kronos Quartet, and of playing in prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center and, of course, Bob Boilen's Tiny Desk. 01/03/2014 - Tom Huizenga, NPR Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..