The band The Six Tones, including two Vietnamese traditional instrument players Nguyen Thanh Thuy, Ngo Tra My and Swedish guitarist Stefan Ostersjo, will join string players from the Seattle Symphony Orchestra in a concert later this month.

The concert, titled Celebrate Asia, which lasts for around two hours and will showcase pieces specially designed for Vietnamese instruments, is scheduled to take place at 7.30pm, March 21 at the Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle, Washington.

The show will include four works, namely the Three Film Scores for string orchestra by Toru Takemitsu; multi-media work Nam Mai by Richard Karpen; the Overture to the Siege by Shuying Li; and Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16 by Edvard Grieg.

The orchestra will perform under the guide of conductor Julia Tai.

Nam Mai is a 25-minute-long multi media piece for traditional Vietnamese instruments, based on a melody of tuong (Vietnamese classical opera) art.

Karpen composed music for the work based on that specific melody, while film director and playwright Jorgen Dahlqvist used the tale of Dao Tam Xuan, a female general in an ancient tuong play, to design the images for the work, which include a film excerpt shown on a large screen and dance movements on stage.

The Six Tones, will play Vietnamese string instruments with the symphony orchestra to create independent soundtracks for the film screening and dancing performances.

"I have worked with The Six Tones and writer/director Jorgen Dahlqvist on a few large-scale pieces, including Idioms, a theatre work for the trio plus three actors and live electronics," said American composer Richard Karpen, a pioneer of electronic music and professor of composition at the University of Washington.

"More recently, we collaborated on Seven Stories, a feature-length dance film inspired by traditional Vietnamese tuong theatre subjects, which added choreographer Marie Fahlin to our artistic group. Excerpts from this film accompany the performance of Nam Mai in this concert," he said.

Composer Karpen joined the University of Washington in 1989 as a professor of Music Composition and Experimental Media. He went on to found the school's Centre for Digital Arts and Experimental Media in 2001. He was named Director of the School of Music in 2009.

He has continued to produce groundbreaking compositions, with a focus on electro-acoustic timbres and computerised sounds.

"Idioms captured the interest of my colleagues at the Seattle Symphony, who suggested composing a new work for the Celebrate Asia concert. While I was working on Seven Stories in Seattle last year, the ideas for Nam Mai began to take shape," he said, "It is based on a traditional Vietnamese tune that we were using in the film, which then became the source of everything heard in this new piece."

Karpen added that he was delighted to have conductor Julia Tai join them for the creation of Nam Mai, a work composed for and with close friends from three continents - Asia, Europe and North America.

Since 2006, The Six Tones has been bringing art music from Vietnam and Europe together, touring as an instrumental music group or in music theatre projects, and working with choreographers.

The band members Thuy and My are both lecturers at the Vietnam National Music Academy. In the piece, Thuy plays dan tranh – the 16-string zither, while My uses dan bau, also known as mono chord.

Ostersjo won the Swedish Grammy in 1997 and has travelled to perform throughout Asia and Europe. Since 2006, he has engaged with various contemporary music projects involving Vietnamese artists like Tran Kim Ngoc, Vu Nhat Tan, and Tri Minh. The name of the group, emanating from a composition by Henrik, is inspired by the six tones used in the Vietnamese language./.