Armenian Culture - Music
Armenian music is like no other. It has its special melodic pattern and rich sounding. This originality is reached due to the use of original Armenian instruments which have survived from the early Middle Ages – pander and bambir, the violin prototypes; the strings – tavikh and knar; the wind instruments –reed pipe, zurn, avagpog; percussions - drums.
Since ancient times people have sung folk songs of ritual, labor, and military content.
A lot of songs were created by people – about love and marriage, lullabies, and lamentations. The songs were sung by folk singers - gusans. Church and choir music originated in the 5 th century. The songs for choir were called sharakans and were sung during masses and celebrations.
In the 12 th century appeared Armenian music notation called khazes. Urban folk songs and instrumental music was developing using the features of rural songs, the elements of eastern and western cultures. The fragments of songs which have reached us testify about the level of development of Armenian medieval music culture. The singing art of Armenian singers, ashugs, dedicated mostly to the themes of love and everyday life started to develop in the late 17 th century.
In 1868 Chukhadzhyan wrote the first Armenian opera “Arshak II”; the works by A. Spendiarov laid the basis of national classical symphony music; in 1912 A. Tigranan created opera “Anush”.
The beginning of the 19 th century saw the rise of Armenian musical life and creation of new Armenian notation.
The 20th century presented the world the galaxy of outstanding Armenian composers - Aram Khachaturyan, Mikhael Tariverdiev and Arno Babadzhanyan.
It’s hard to imagine Armenian music without its sad and deep sound of duduk, an old national woodwind instrument. Historical roots of duduk that in Armenia is called as tsiranapokh, goes back to the times of the Armenian king, Tigran the Great (95-55 BC). Duduk is made of an apricot wood. It can be of three sizes: 28 cm, 33 cm and 40 cm. Number of musical holes of the instrument vary: seven or eight on the facing side, and one or two on the reverse side – for the thumb. Duduk charms with its soft and muffled sound, harmonious and mellow timbre.
In the world popularization of this musical instrument, huge credit should be given to a famous Armenian musician Djivan Gaparyan, a composer and skillful duduk player. The Professor of the Yerevan State Conservatory Gaparyan created a special school for duduk play that sometimes is called an Armenian flute or Armenian oboe. Gaparyan brought up many talented students in many parts of the world. Gaparyan and sound of duduk became famous with the screening of the film ‘Gladiator’ where few pieces are played on duduk.
Duduk that was played on Armenian ceremonies such as birth of a child and christening, weddings and funerals, has entered now the musical mainstream and is played in the albums of Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel, Brian May, Sting and Lionel Richie, in the film ‘The Passion of the Christ’ and the series ‘Game of Thrones’.
UNESCO proclaimed the Armenian duduk and its music as a Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2005.