Posts Tagged ‘duduk’


[Listening to Armenia]: John Psathas’ A Cool Wind

July 27, 2010

By Daniele Faye Sourian Sahr

“I have always been drawn to the duduk because of its supreme ability to give voice to grief…‘crying through music’ but at the same time…comforts and soothes.” – John Psathas

New Zealand-based composer of Greek origin, John Psathas, was learning about the tragic events of 1915 when he wrote the piece, A Cool Wind, for string quartet. Despite the distance in time and geography, he was digesting the horrors of Armenian history, having also affected his Greek ancestors in the 1920s. The piece, whose sound is influenced by the Armenian wind instrument, the duduk, grew as a journey of personal, cultural, and national grief, both mourning the past and breathing life into the present.

Composer, John Psathas

John Psathas.jpg

Credit: Nina Pearson

The emotions provoked a creative process of pen to music staff in which he aimed to emulate the singing human qualities of the duduk while letting the essence of the composition lead him onto the next note, through the next rhythmic pattern, into the creation of the next measure, until the life of the piece, as he said, would “communicate to me what it wants to become.”

I happened upon the premiere of A Cool Wind like a stroke of unavoidable fate shared between two people with common history. Commissioned by Chamber Music New Zealand for the Takacs Quartet, the piece was premiered in the US at Carnegie Hall. I was there for the standard quartets of Schumann and Beethoven so thoughtfully and gently evoked by the Quartet’s famously mature and fluid sound. But nestled unexpectedly between two Western greats, A Cool Wind’s layered silky texture immediately pulled me into a different realm of mystery, question, and elusive answer.

The piece not only carries the duduk’s singing quality of elongated, thoughtful and sorrowful tones (Psathas was influenced by the mesmerizing aura of Djivan Gasparyian’s playing) but captures at the same time a feeling of forward movement. Listening, I felt the past as an entity always present, reminding us, like a wind wafting over and passing on, while always subtly propelling us forward.

“More than anything, this small piece of mine, so tiny in the scale of human experience, is an offering: of remembrance, of hope, of sadness and suffering but mostly of solace.” – John Psathas

Here is a midi rendition of the string quartet, A Cool Wind.


[Web Wrap]: The Remarkable Duduk.

June 21, 2010

Dating back more than 3,000 years, the Duduk is one of oldest double reed instruments in the world. It’s been called the only true Armenian instrument and a symbol of Armenian national identity. Listen to its beautiful sound here while played during a Yanni concert.


[Listening to Armenia]: Gyumri’s Young Artists

August 3, 2009

By Daniele Sourian Sahr

With grace and professionalism, several students at the FAR-sponsored Azad Shishian Octet Music School gave an afternoon recital welcoming the FAR Young Professionals Trip to Gyumri. Being one of the seven young professionals myself, I felt honored that teachers and students alike shared their talents and time with us. As I watched each performer come on stage, my eyes feasted upon a myriad of instruments, both classical (violins, pianos, and flutes, for example) and those traditional to Armenian heritage, like the duduk and kanoon. As I listened to each young musician, the sweet voices of the singers and the nimble fingers of the violinists kept me enraptured and eager to hear more.

I, too, play the violin and couldn’t help feeling that we share inherent musical experiences, despite the geographical distance separating us. Like them, I am classically trained and play the greats of Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven.  But it was doubly exciting that we all had learned important Armenian works, songs of Gomidas, and could pick up an instrument and express the sounds of our common culture.

With my return to the US, I kept thinking about my happy experience with the Gyumri musicians. As music has always been an unfaltering part of my life and being Armenian a natural given, I discovered that I’d like to know more of this richness alive in our culture—through folk music, classical music, pop music, and the ways in which it brings us together. Whether you are a musician or just enjoy listening, I hope my coming excerpts on music will bring you new thoughts on Armenian music and the ways in which we might listen to it and fill our lives with it.

Flute player demonstrates her talent during an unforgettable concert

Credit : Celine Kaladjian