Music of ArmeniaFriday, December 24, 2021
The music of Armenia has its origins in the Armenian highlands, dating back to the 3rd millennium BCE, and is a long-standing musical tradition that encompasses diverse secular and religious, or sacred, music (such as the sharakan Armenian chant and taghs, along with the indigenous khaz musical notation). Folk music was notably collected and transcribed by Komitas Vardapet, a prominent composer and musicologist, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who is also considered the founder of the modern Armenian national school of music. Armenian music has been presented internationally by numerous artists, such as composers Aram Khachaturian, Alexander Arutiunian, Arno Babajanian, Haig Gudenian, and Karen Kavaleryan as well as by traditional performers such as duduk player Djivan Gasparyan.
Traditional Armenian folk music as well as Armenian church music is not based on the European tonal system but on a system of tetrachords. The last note of one tetrachord also serves as the first note of the next tetrachord – which makes a lot of Armenian folk music more or less based on a theoretically endless scale.
Armenia has had a long tradition of folk music since antiquity. During the Soviet era, Armenian folk music was taught in state-sponsored conservatoires – in 1978, influential kanon player and composer Khachatur Avetisyan founded the folk music department of the Komitas State Conservatory of Yerevan. Traditional instruments include the qamancha, kanon (box zither), dhol (double-headed hand drum, see davul), oud (lute), duduk, zurna, blul, sring, shvi, pku, parkapzuk, tar, dmblak, bambir, and to a lesser degree the saz. Other instruments often used include the violin and clarinet. The duduk is considered to be Armenia's national instrument, and among its well-known performers are Margar Margaryan, Levon Madoyan, Vache Hovsepyan, Gevorg Dabaghyan, and Yeghish Manukyan, as well as Armenia's most famous contemporary duduk player, Djivan Gasparyan.
Notable performers of folk music include vocalists such as Armenak Shahmuradyan, Ofelya Hambardzumyan, Vagharshak Sahakyan, Araksia Gyulzadyan, Varduhi Khachatryan, Norayr Mnatsakanyan, Hovhannes Badalyan, Hayrik Muradyan, Valya Samvelyan, Rima Saribekyan, Raffi Hovhannisyan, Avak Petrosyan, Papin Poghosyan, and Flora Martirosian.
There are also several Armenian folk ensembles, the Shoghaken Folk Ensemble, founded in 1995 in Yerevan, and others such as the Arev Armenian Folk Ensemble.
Gusan and ashugh art
In ancient and medieval Armenia, the gusans (Armenian: գուսան) were the creative and performing artists – singers, instrumentalists, dancers, storytellers, and professional folk actors in public theaters. The word gusan is first mentioned in early Armenian texts of V c., e.g. Faustus of Byzantium, Moses of Chorene, and others. In the early Middle Ages the word gusan was used as an equivalent to the classical Greek word mimos (mime). There were 2 groups of gusans:
1. The first were from aristocratic dynasties (feudal lords) and performed as professional musicians;
2. The second group comprised popular, but illiterate gusans.
The gusans were both criticized and praised, particularly in medieval Armenia. The adoption of Christianity had its influence upon Armenian minstrelsy, gradually altering its ethical and ideological orientation. The center of the gusans was the Goghtn gavar (canton), a region in the Vaspurakan province of Greater Armenia that bordered the province of Syunik.
During the late Middle Ages, gusans were succeeded by popular, semi-professional musicians called ashughs (Armenian: աշուղ), who played instruments like the kamancha and saz. Sayat-Nova, an 18th-century ashugh and poet, is revered in Armenia.
Folk music in the Armenian diaspora
Descendants of survivors of the Armenian genocide, originally from Western Armenia, and Armenian emigrants from other parts of the Middle East have settled in various countries, especially in the California Central Valley. The second- and third-generation artists, such as Richard Hagopian, an oud-player associated with the kef tradition of Armenian-American music have kept their folk traditions alive. This dance-oriented style of Armenian music, using Armenian and Middle Eastern folk instruments (often electrified/amplified) and some Western instruments, preserved the folk songs and dances of Western Armenia. Many artists also played the contemporary popular songs of cosmopolitan Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries from which the Armenians emigrated (termed surjaran or café aman, meaning cafeteria), on the Eight Avenue of Manhattan, New York City. Bands such as the Vosbikian Band of Philadelphia were notable in the 1940s and 1950s for developing their own style of "kef music", heavily influenced by the popular American big band jazz of the time. Another oud player, John Berberian, is notable in particular for his fusions of traditional music with rock and jazz in the 1960s.
In the Lebanese and Syrian diaspora, George Tutunjian, Karnig Sarkissian and others performed Armenian revolutionary songs, which quickly became popular among the Armenian Diaspora, notably ARF supporters. In Tehran, Iran, the folk music of the Armenian community is characterized by the work of Nikol Galanderian (1881–1946) and the Goghtan Choir.
Armenian classical composers of Ottoman classical music include Kemani Tatyos Ekserciyan (1858–1913), music theorist Hampartsoum Limondjian (1768–1839) who developed the influential "Hamparsum" notation system, and Bimen Şen Der Ghazarian (1873–1913).
Alexander Spendiarov (1871–1928), Armen Tigranian (1879–1950), and Haro Stepanian are best known for their Armenian operas. Sargis Barkhudaryan (1887–1973) and Garo Zakarian (1895–1967) are representative composers of the pre- and early Soviet Armenian era. The most famous, however, was Aram Khatchaturian (1903–1978), internationally well-known especially for his music for various ballets and the immortal Sabre Dance from his composition for the ballet Gayane. Gevorg Armenyan (1920–2005), Anahit Tsitsikian (1926–1999), Arno Babajanian (1921–1983), Barseg Kanatchian (1885–1967), Edward Mirzoyan (1921–2012), Boris Parsadanian (1925–1997), Ashot Zohrabyan (1945– ), Aram Satian (1947– ), and Vartan Adjemian (1956– ) represent other Soviet-era Armenian composers. Iosif Andriasov's (1933–2000) was an influential composer-symphonist, a moral philosopher, and a teacher. Alexander Arutiunian (1920–2012) is best known for his Trumpet Concerto in A-flat major. Alexander Dolukhanian (1910–1968) composed or arranged numerous Armenian songs, including the well-known "Swallow". Alexander Adjemian (1925–1987), Ashot Satian (1906–1958) and Vagarshak Kotoyan (1921–1992) are known for their contributions to Armenian choral and vocal music. Eduard Abramian (1923–1986) wrote songs on the poetry of Armenian poets Hovhannes Tumanyan and Avetik Isahakian which are now part of the standard repertoire. Artemi Ayvazyan (1902–1975) wrote the first Soviet musical comedies, including the popular "Dentist from the Orient". In recent years, Avet Terterian (1929–1994), Tigran Mansurian (1939– ), Vache Sharafyan (1966– ) and Aram Petrosyan (1972– ) have achieved global success. Another acclaimed, more recent, classical composer is Khachatur Avetissian (1926–1996), many of whose compositions are based on traditional folklore themes. Uruguayan-Armenian composer Coriún Aharonián (1940–2017), besides a notable body of avant-garde compositions has done extensive musicological and political work. The Armenian nationalist composer Alexander Kaloian (1962– ) is known for his overtly nationalistic works for military band and orchestra including marches, tone poems and symphonies immediately recognizable as "Armenian" in their color.
In classical music, many Armenian singers have gained worldwide recognition: sopranos Gohar Gasparyan, Sona Ghazarian, Arpine Pehlivanian, Lucine Amara, Cathy Berberian and, more recently, Isabel Bayrakdarian and Anna Kasyan, mezzo-soprano Tatevik Sazandaryan, tenors Tigran Levonyan, Gegham Grigoryan, and Vahan Mirakyan; basses Ara Berberian, and Henrik Alaverdian, as well as the bass-baritone Barsegh Toumanian.
In the diaspora, Armenian musicians such as pianist Şahan Arzruni, violinists Manoug Parikian and Levon Chilingirian, and composers such as Alan Hovhaness have reached international fame.
Armenian-American composer John Hodian created "Songs of Exile", new music based on poetry by the medieval Armenian painter, poet and priest Mkrtich Naghash. With three female vocalists, duduk, oud, dhol and piano, The Naghash Ensemble has been touring internationally since 2014. Their music has been described as a hybrid of "classical music, jazz, folk and post-minimalism" by the German radio station BR Klassik. Scott Giles (1965–) is an Armenian-American known for his many symphonies and concertos. Armenian-Canadian composer Vahram Sargsyan (1981– ) represents the younger generation of Armenian contemporary composers who is mostly known for his choral compositions.