2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of prominent Armenian composer & ethnomusicologist Komitas Vardapet.
Komitas’s 150th jubilee
is included in the 2018-2019 UNESCO calendar of anniversary celebrations.
Komitas (Kütahya, 1869 – Paris, 1935) - born Soghomon Soghomonian, was a phenomenal musician who contributed greatly to the music world of the 20th century by creating both an original and a reformative oeuvre, where “nature speaks in the songs” as their threads are intimately woven into the fabric of the environment and the society. Ordained a Vardapet (celibate priest Doctor in Theology) at the age of 25, Komitas pursued a prolific musical career. As a composer, he created the foundations for a modern national musical tradition by introducing sophisticated polyphony while maintaining the distinctive Armenian modal scales and musical accents found in the long legacy of traditional music. He undertook a tireless and meticulous ethnographical fieldwork by traveling to the most remote Armenian regions and rural villages, ultimately collecting over 4,000 pieces of folk music. By valuing the importance of folk music, Komitas used this heritage in his compositions, even before the most prominent ethnomusicologists of the 20th century, such as Bela Bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, George Enescu, and others. His compositional output was relatively modest yet with a style unmatched by any of his contemporaries (80 choral pieces and songs, arrangements of the Divine Liturgy, and some pieces for piano). His compositions amplified the raw beauty of his original recordings, and his performances, with unrivalled mastery and charisma, captivated all.
Rather than a national survival undertaking, Komitas’s work brought a modern cultural revival. Turned iconic to the extent of being idolized, Komitas and the legacy he left contain an immeasurable heritage to be studied by scholars and remain a source of inspiration for many artists and composers. Less known abroad today than during his lifetime, the significance of Komitas’s oeuvre and musical thought are valuable pieces in the music history of the world.
The Future Thinker is an artistic program dedicated to celebrate Komitas’s jubilee anniversary both in Armenia and worldwide and discuss the contemporary perspectives on his legacy.