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[Photos] The Retro Artistry of Vietnam's Hand-Drawn Song Sheet Covers

Does a song have a color?

These original song sheet covers suggest so. Produced to accompany the releases of work by some of Vietnam's most famous musicians — including Pham Duy, Trinh Cong Son, and more — these hand-painted images with nostalgic typography add a hue to the harmonies.

The artworks in this collection are all the front pages of old music booklets known as nhạc tờ or nhạc lá. Usually printed on A3 papers that are then folded in half, the booklets feature original hand-painted arts for the front and back, while the inside contains two music sheets for playing. Sometimes, composers would even include the chords, in addition to the music notes, to make it easier for listeners to cover their songs.

According to Nhac Xua, a website dedicated to old Vietnamese music, these booklets were a product of their time, when the music lover population was generally too poor to afford music players. So they would purchase these artful sheets, complete with the lyrics and chords, to sing and play along at home. 

While today the standard practice for an album cover may be a highly orchestrated photoshoot or collaboration with prominent visual artists, in simpler times the work was done by paint stroke. Commissioned by record producers and accomplished by university students and emerging artists, the works serve as mood boards of sorts

Does listening to the song gain another layer of nuance by seeing one artist's interpretation of it? That's up to you to decide. Peep the images below:

[Photos via Flickr user mannhai]

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