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Komitas


The years following his experience of the Genocide are shrouded in mystery, and the circumstances of Komitas’ eventual mental breakdown in 1919 are not fully documented.

The horrors of the first genocide of the 20th century had the most profound impact on Komitas psycho- he was first institutionalized in Constantinople and later was moved to Paris by some of his friends to be given more care, where he spent the rest of his life between moments of great lucidity and longer stretches of total mental chaos.

After 1919, Komitas produced no music. He fell into a protracted period of silence, which lasted for fourteen years. He died in Paris in 1935 at the hospital in the Jewish Quarter. The following year his remains were taken to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia.

In honor of his contributions to Armenian music, then the newly established Conservatory in Yerevan was named "Komitas State Conservatory".

3. Komitas Intellectuality And Musical Character

Armenian music until appearance of Komitas was folkloric, Armenian songs being spiritual, folk or national were monodic, simple in its form, which is why for some time it was as if not a part of the world’s big musical family. It was Komitas, who first tried to take out the Armenian music from this archaic state and lay a ground for its musical form.

"The different impressions of the surrounding give birth to yet different feelings. And as the music being the mirror of our feelings, it reflects us as sad, joyous or courageous, by looking to the neighborhood, where we live, feel and create a whole nation".

Komitas believed that the Armenian spiritual music reflected the folk music tradition. For the villagers, creation of a song was as natural as speaking their mother language.

In this case the process of the creation played more importance, with less regard to the composer himself. In other words songs, which were composed, were products of a collective, rather than an individual effort.

"In villages everyone can sing- good or bad, because all together are part of the creation of a song. But no one knows who started that game, because all together are being part of it".

Often Komitas was present during the time of this collaborative creation, witnessing people singing and dancing. For example in 1905 in the Caucasus he observed a choral circle dance. The song started with the pattern of four notes, rest and then two notes.

The group was repeating the same, while the soloists changed with another person every time taking the lead and singing in a comfortable level to his voice. By the end of the dance Komitas wrote twenty-one versions of those two melodic lines.

The difference between the first and the last version was huge, and when he requested to repeat the first version it was not possible any more, as what was remembered was the last one. And no one could know who composed it, because it was the creation of the whole group.

Most of the folk songs were short-lived, because they were composed as the response to the temporary situation, with new songs always emerging, in particular with the dance pieces, which were born in the moment and died in the moment.

By collecting all the folk songs and dances, the main aim of Komitas was to preserve the pieces, which were fusing and changing constantly and keep it in their original form, as part of the Armenian musical heritage. He traveled all over Eastern and Western Armenia to collect songs and dances – Shirak, Iktir, Artashat, Kodayk, Ashtarag, Vagharshapat, Abaran, Van and other Armenian populated territories.

The main interest for the composer was the place and birth of those compositions, their style of the theme, the occasion of the interpretation, the used musical instruments, the structure and scale in which they were played or sung as well as the details of the intervals.

Komitas also observed that the folk music has evolved into a local dialect, as much as the language. The peasant knew his own musical dialect as well as he knew his own language. The tunes from the mountainous regions of Armenia had more of rough, passionate and martial musical motives, while the tunes from the plains were more mild and gentle.

Although Komitas had a European musical education (German and French), he used that to enrich his work and help in his research while staying and preserving the rich Armenian spirit.

It was his strength and value. Being familiar with the Turkish, Persian and Arabic music, Komitas had a point of comparison, which helped him to be more specific and certain about the Armenian musical style.

In Komitas’ tempered scale view he describes the Armenian music as composed of chains of Tetra-chords, where the last of each is the beginning of the next, which differs from the European method based on the octave scale. Komitas gives us these six Tetra-chords, upon which, by having different mixtures we maintain the Armenian scales.

Komitas’ musical thinking was oriented toward chamber and more vocal arrangements. We can also observe this style in his piano pieces, for example in "Six dances", where the structure of the piece is based more on the melody and percussive accompaniment, just as having the idea of a vocalist and a percussive accompaniment.

It is also essential to mention that Komitas, while working with folk music, entered the understanding of form and structure, as in any classical piece. However he had not completed his musical analysis, which concerned the dialects, and even if he did, either it was destroyed during the 1915 genocide or still remains in form of manuscripts.

Komitas played a crucial role in forming a school of music in Armenia by teaching many subjects, which we must say, were addressed the first time. In the teaching process teacher plays the most important role and Komitas with his multi talent was delivering in-depth first hand knowledge to his students.

We must also note that the musical schools of the beginning of the century were approaching many subjects sometimes not even straightly connected to musical studies.

To help his students, Komitas wrote number of books among which is "Armenian notation", "Harmony", "Music Theory". Apart from teaching folk music, Komitas found important to familiarize his students with European classical music.

Komitas’ creative life laid a foundation to the formation of the Armenian national music school, which united centuries old folk musical experience and professional music studies.

Therefore we must conclude that Komitas was the most important person in the history of the Armenian music school.
 
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Writer: Marie Awadis
 
 
 Date Added: Friday September 22, 2006 08:33:34 
 




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