From the first notes they played during a rehearsal on Tuesday, the music of flutist Him Savy and classical guitarist Anders Delin transported the small audience into an intimate world where melodies reach into one’s soul.
And then Pal Vannarirak read one of her poems—the Cambodian author’s reassuring tone enhancing the atmosphere.
Along with poetry translator Karl-Johan Rahm, the musicians and writer were rehearsing for their performance on Sunday night at Meta House in Phnom Penh. Mr. Rahm and Mr. Delin came in from Stockholm for the event.
Organized by Anton Isselhardt of the local ARTplus Foundation, the concert, entitled “Spacetime,” will consist of alternating musical pieces and poetry readings in Khmer, Swedish, English and French.
“I think the best languages to reach common ground among people, beyond differences of culture or tradition, is music and poetry,” Mr. Rahm said. “Music and poetry speak to the feelings all people share.”
“Spacetime” has been in the works for months, Mr. Isselhardt said, as the group searched for the right music to complement the texts.
“At least in my experience, this is the first time that Scandinavian music esthetic is combined with Cambodian tradition,” he said.
Mr. Delin selected a piece of Swedish folklore written by composer Ulf G. Ahslund, works by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla and Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, and two compositions of the late King Norodom Sihanouk.
For Ms. Savy, playing with a classical guitarist has been challenging. “If I play with all my energy, the sound of the flute completely covers the soft sound of the guitar,” she said. “So I really have to concentrate and…only use about 70 percent of my strength.”
On Sunday, Ms. Vannarirak will read a poem from her book “Preah Chan Srok Khmer,” or Moon of the Cambodian Country, which she penned in the early 2000s. The 60-year-old writer, who won Cambodian literary awards in 1989 and 1995, has had her work translated into Swedish and Japanese.
“I have written novels, songs, movie scripts and television dramas, but my favorite form of writing is poetry,” she said.
In the poem from “Preah Chan Srok Khmer,” Ms. Vannarirak said, “I wanted to show that love has both negative and positive effects. Whenever love is truly honest—real love from the heart—then it will be a motivation to use it the right way…to work hard to build a family and a life with the person they love.”
“On the other hand, fake love can bring disaster, cause the world to turn upside down,” she added. “Love is a scary tale.”
The concert at Meta House starts at 8 p.m.