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Komitas


In 1895 Komitas was sent to Tiflis (present Tbilisi, Georgia) to study with another great musicologist and church music specialist Makar Yekmalyan. After a year (1896) Komitas was awarded a modest scholarship to further his studies in Berlin.

On the advice of Joseph Joachim, the renowned violinist, he enrolled in the private conservatory of Richard Schmidt, and few months later he also began studying aesthetics (philosophy) at the "Friedrich-Wilhelm Universitat zu Berlin" (Royal Berlin University).

For his music studies, he had teachers as R. Schmidt for piano, choir and operatic performance. For harmony and folk music he had the guidance of the medievalist Henrick Bellermann, and the 18th and 19th century folk music specialist Max Friedlander. He was also influenced very much from an expert on medieval neumes and Christian chants, Oscar Fleischer.

"Fleischer’s vast knowledge of the subject was to be a key element in Komitas’ own investigations of the Armenian "Khaz" system of musical notation".

During his three years in Berlin, Komitas was active in the city’s musical circle. In May 10th, 1899, he gave a lecture about the "Armenian popular and liturgical music" for the first time.

In the same year he was invited to become one of the founding members of the International Music Society (IMS), which was established by Oscar Fleischer (1899) - the forerunner of the present day International Musicological Society. Komitas was invited to speak on the subject of Armenian music at the chapter’s inaugural meeting.

At four different conferences, Komitas delivered lectures on Armenian Music.

In 1900, after three years of studying, Komitas returned to Etchmiadzin and did not hesitate to engage himself in the fieldwork, documenting the dance tunes and folk songs of the Caucasus and Ararat Plateau and continued investigating the Armenian Khaz (neumatic) notation system of the 11th century.

"Between 1899-1905, Komitas was in his most creative time. In this period of time he was confirming the Armenian National music’s cultural experience in pedagogic, interpretational art, scientific and creative field".

After maintaining the European education he has also developed new system of arranging the Armenian folk songs, in a classical way – polyphonic more than harmonic (3-4 voices), which was practiced by the Seminary’ student choir.

From 1905 to 1907 Komitas was active in giving lectures and choir concerts in Trans-Caucasus, Western and Eastern Europe - Tiflis, Baku, Paris, Bern, Lausanne and Geneva. His aim was to present the Armenian musical tradition, virtually unknown outside Ottoman Turkey, to the European world.

Between 1906 and 1907 he lived in Paris where he continued his active life of concerts and research on Armenian notation system. During one of his concerts C. Debussy was present and was amazed with Komitas’ talent.

"If Komitas would have written only the "Antuni" (a song meaning "the homeless"), he would have still considered one of the big composers in the world". This was Debussy’s impression about Komitas music.

In 1907 Komitas returned to Etchmiadzin where he realized that during his absence his research and development of Armenian music was given lesser importance.

Finally in 1910 he was hopeless, and decided to leave Etchmiadzin and move to Constantinople (Istanbul), a city open to Europe and the Middle East, which had an influential Armenian community.

This change had a good impact on his work and in 1910 he founded the 300-member "Kousan" choir, which he conducted.

In 1913 Komitas recorded series of 78-rpm phonograph records in Paris and a year later in the 4th meeting of IMS, he presented three different lectures on the modal, rhythmical and the metric structure of Armenian music.

Those lectures were a big success and Komitas was elected the chairman of IMS’ newly created Middle Eastern section.

During June of 1914, Komitas was invited to Paris along with some other country’s music representatives and delivered lectures on two topics:
"Armenian folk (keghchuk) music"
"The old and new Armenian notation in the spiritual (hokevor) music"

At the conclusion of those lectures concerts of Armenian spiritual music were performed by Komitas’ choir, which proved to be the last public performances by the composer.

In April 24th, 1915, at the height of the systematic destruction of the Armenian population of Ottoman Empire, Komitas with 291 other prominent Armenian intellectuals and artists was arrested in Constantinople and deported to the interior of the Empire (Chankiri).

Only forty survived and Komitas, as if by miracle was one of them. While Komitas was spared the fate of his friends, upon his return to Constantinople he found his life’s work – manuscripts, research findings on the "Khaz" system and his library – in total disarray.

From the 3000-4000 notated and recorded folk songs only few hundred survived. A full accounting of his research on the "Khaz" system has so far eluded from scholars.

 
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Writer: Marie Awadis
 
 
 Date Added: Friday September 22, 2006 08:33:34 
 




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