Why we should read... `Komitas' by S Gasparyan (240pp, 1961) `Komitas' by Cecelia Broutian (224pp, 1969) `Komitas As He Was' by Khachig Patigian (432pp, 2002) One Nation, One Music! The uniqueness of Komitas Komitas (1869-1935) was a unique musical genius, a scholar with unrivalled mastery of the history and art of Armenian music, a composer, conductor, pianist, singer and poet, and with formidable mathematical skills, an acute, almost invincible backgammon playing priest to boot! It was a beautiful voice in fact that in youth had opened for him the doors of then venerated educational establishments. Among Armenians Komitas has enjoyed unparalleled, even iconic status. No other name in Armenian life has received the same unqualified acclaim. No other commands the same awe or authority. None is so universally cherished, even idolised; aside perhaps from Antranig, the foremost guerrilla commander of the Armenian national liberation movement. As if in recognition, the National Pantheon in Yerevan, burial site for the braves of modern Armenian culture, is named after Komitas. These three volumes throw valuable light on a phenomenal musician (see Note 1). I. The musical ambition Describing him as the 'musical historian of the Armenian village', Mekhitarist priest Father Gyureghian compared Komitas to Moses of Khoren, the 5th century founder of Armenian historiography. Of humble origins, from a Turkish speaking Armenian community in western Turkey, Komitas became 'the Narek and the Abovian' of Armenian music according to novelist Terenik Temirjian. Famously hostile to Narek, diaspora-based writer Shahan Shahanour judged Komitas as one of only four significant figures in the whole of Armenian history! In 1935, spectacular patriotic communist poet Yeghishe Charents, then hounded and isolated by Stalin's growing authoritarianism wept bitterly when the body of this musical priest was brought for burial in Yerevan. Thirty years later Barouyr Sevak, dominant poet and public figure of his time, wrote the remarkable 'The Ever Ringing Belfry' in Komitas's honour. Possessed of vast inner resources, energy and enthusiasm, immense organisational skill, hugely gregarious and with a charm and charisma that captivated all, Komitas was driven by a single ambition: to create the foundations for a modern national musical tradition through the recovery and development of what he insisted was a unique, authentic Armenian music, traceable to the pagan era and surviving in contemporary folk and Church music, but layered over by non-Armenian, Arabic, Byzantine, Assyrian, Turkish, Kurdish and other influences. Komitas rejected: Ignorant and narrow minded views that claimed Armenian music was born of Assyrian Byzantine or Indian-Persian influences and lacked independent identity (CB See note 2). Tireless, disciplined, demanding, and famously meticulous, described by a German admirer as 'that fanatical easterner ready to spill blood for a single musical note' (SG153), Komitas devoted his all to removing that which had made the authentic Armenian unrecognisable and in addition, to demonstrating the common, shared origins of Armenian secular and religious music. Thus he hoped to develop a music befitting a single, united modern nation. For the modern Armenian revival Komitas's work had a telling aspect. Music is central to the life of all peoples and for Armenians it could contribute hugely to overcoming the divisions and the provincialism that fragmented the people. In the musical celebration of labour, of love, of life and death there was a manifest, objective unity among a people living in a jigsaw of political, social and cultural division! The songs they sung and the music they made in their Churches, in their villages and fields, at weddings, funerals and festivals, whether in Ottoman or Tsarist occupied Armenia or in Armenian villages and towns across these far-flung empires, all had the same essential qualities and identity. They sang and danced, wept and prayed to music hailing from the same ancient descent that had despite centuries of subsequent political collapse, remained a continuous reality albeit hidden. In the defining of nationality this music, modernised appropriately, could conceivably perform a role more unifying even than language. Contemporary Vartan Sarksyan writes with some justice that as a result of Komitas's endeavours 'our native music became a powerful bond of national unity, as powerful as our rich and glorious mother tongue (CB171).' One can indeed venture that the modernised 19th and 20th century Armenian language, despite its equally ancient pedigree, still divided the nation with a classical variant still used in Church, and two vernaculars, eastern and western, emerging as separate literary forms across western and eastern Armenia. An authentic national music on the other hand united! Dedicated 'to work, to sweat and to struggle only for my people and for humanity' Komitas fitted easily into the progressive mainstream of the times, of Toumanian, Aghayan, Shirvanzade, Varoujean and others. Before returning from Berlin where he had studied from 1896 to 1901, he turned down a lucrative offer to become a soloist with the Berlin Opera, writing that 'my musical abilities I shall put to the service of a single aim'. Thereafter his work was to manifest a living unity of the two forces that together propelled forward the 19th century nation- building movement, that of the common people and the intelligentsia. Like many of the intelligentsia he too hailed from the people but unlike the majority he remained engaged directly with them, an engagement that other Armenian intellectuals aspired to but were denied. Like Abovian, much beloved by Komitas, he too summoned, in music, an authentically Armenian world that featured rarely in the work of Armenian writers in the Diaspora of Istanbul and Tbilisi. II. The biography of a musical enterprise In his labours Komitas allotted the central and dominant position to folk music. His own art, his music and his compositions were palpably born of popular creativity and imagination. 'Go and learn from the common people' he would say for 'they are our greatest artists.' Cecilia Broutian writes that: Komitas was the first to understand that a future Armenian national music could arise only on the foundations of popular folk music.' (p111) It was their music that 'preserved centuries of tradition' (SG54) and held the gems and clues that would unfold a true national musical history. Komitas insisted: 'We must collect our folk songs and dance tunes with the greatest sensibility and devotion...for they convey a completely different passion, a different feeling and contain a different thought to the music of other eastern peoples.' To recover this 'difference', wherever he was in eastern or western Armenia, in villages around Yerevan, Gyumri, Karahisar or Abaran, or in the Diaspora, Komitas would steep himself in local song and dance, writing down each and every lyric he heard and notating every possible variant to every song. These he then meticulously deciphered, examined, compared. He delved into them in search of their genuine Armenian musical core. As a result of the Genocide, of the 5000 songs he gathered only some 1000 survive. Besides the music of the common people, ardent and scholarly attention was paid to Church music, for the music of both shared a common history. 'The more I delve into...the sea of our music the firmer becomes my conviction that the grand and noble tunes of both our folk music and our Church music, that from the earliest times were brother and sister...have their roots in the deepest antiquity, reaching to the very origins of the Armenian people.' Here Komitas's work was to defy the entire weight of a 1500 year Church hostility to the Armenian common peoples' culture, its song, its music and its drama. He was a sort of fifth columnist, a revolutionary priest challenging Church elites from within! Komitas did not however conflate folk and Church music. He did not ignore evidently diverging paths of historical development, a divergence marked, he thought, by particularly incongruous Turkish influences on Church music. However even in their separate flow there was evident continual osmosis, a borrowing and a lending as between `brother and sister', a borrowing and a lending made possible, it should be noted, by the fact that Church compounds and environs were the acknowledged gathering places for popular festivals and celebrations, the town squares as it were. Conservative churchmen, Europeanised Diaspora urbanites and Berlin University professors were initially dismissive. They would not countenance the notion of a unique Armenian music. They would deride the music of the village as uneducated and blasphemous vulgarity utterly unfit to form foundations for a national music. A supremely erudite polemicist, Komitas put them to flight arguing among other things that a national music was a function of the very structure and phonetics of national language. 'Music like language has its particular grammatical rules and its different forms of conjugation that are always different for different nations... Armenian music has exactly those characteristics that are specific to the Armenian language. The Armenian language has its particular phonetics, therefore a corresponding music.' Besides the structure of language Armenian music was fashioned, he argued, by Armenia's particular geography, by its contained, tight, circumscribed mountainous topography of deepest gorges, peaks and sheer drops. Unlike the vast Russian steppes these served to block the flow and exposure of sound. Dubious though this sounds to an amateur, from Komitas it demands consideration. >From the vast store of song that Komitas accumulated and studied, he edited out what he considered encrustation, distilled, refined and arranged a body of work in fitting modern national form. Then across two decades he organised a string of triumphant concerts from Istanbul to Tbilisi, from Etchmiadzin, Yerevan and Baku, from Paris, Geneva and Berlin in addition to others in smaller towns and villages. His achievement was stunning. He built choirs with virtually no resources, with school children and sometimes with no professional soloist. He trained them, in almost no time, and with a passion and a love for the song and the lives these reflected. An inkling of his style is indicated by Varsham Parsatanian: 'Whatever song he sought to teach he approached it from the most diverse angles. For example teaching 'Horovel' he would begin to analyse the song, describe the rural herdsman's condition, who persecuted by lords, village chiefs and priest would tell of his pain to the cattle and plead for their help in the sowing and the reaping so that he could repay his debts.' Komitas's choirs then performed with a professionalism that commanded stupendous domestic and international acclaim. Among admirers was Claude Debussy who after a Paris performance climbed onto the stage to 'bow my head before your musical genius.' To the audience he added 'If Komitas had written only 'The Love Song' it would be sufficient to place him among the world's best musicians.' Modest man that he was, Komitas would decline credits. He had already on another occasion of congratulation announced: 'Dear friends I happily receive thanks, but these belong not to me but to the Armenian people, to the creators of those gems. I have only cleansed and arranged them.' And at such concerts this musical priest dared the unthinkable. More than just affirm a common source to village and religious music, more than just edit out what he thought distorting musical features, Komitas shook up the Church introducing quartets and harmonies into religious songs, had these sung moreover by mixed-sex choirs and performed together with folk songs for the entertainment of secular audiences! A sacrilege and an affront cried out the hidebound. Church music put on a par with secular and offered to the people as their inalienable property, as part of a single national music, was condemned a scandal. Associating divine music with the dirty mob was an insult, a soiling, a stripping of saintly aura and authority. Scandal for the clergy yes! But a delight for his audience, one of whom wrote a post card to Komitas saying: 'If in Church they sang like that, one would have to queue for hours to get in!' Komitas had helped to demystify religious music that through the centuries had acquired an elevated divine authority. Democratising it stripped the Church hierarchy of that mystical power music accords it. The sound, the chant and the hymn emanating from Church would cease to anoint and sanctify the privilege and the power of a feudal clergy. A majestic sound that had for centuries urged the people to genuflect before the Church clergy would now instead instill in them the confidence to stand independent and proud. Church backlash against this 'priest who sang of love and of lovers' (KP109) was inevitable. Among its worst moments were appeals to Ottoman police to ban public performances and, in Catholic inquisition style, the destruction of records of Church music that Komitas had dared get cut. A man of steely conviction, Komitas refused to give way. For him, as with the mainstream of the national revival, the Church did not define the nation or its music, the people did. Besides and in any event tumultuous applause drowned out all whining and cursing. Registering this, it is unfortunate that all three volumes sometimes blur Komitas's genuine image by wrapping it in the mists and aromas of a sanctification ceremony. Komitas's project and his legacy have not however been free of controversy. His artistic originality has been questioned as has the national quality of his work. Commentary from the contemporary press suggests that his renditions were too divorced from those of the rural peasant to actually remain within the realm of national folk music. In the 1930s, Soviet criticism often attempted to reduce him to the level of a talented ethnographer, a national-ethnic musical proof reader as it were, of the songs that he had accumulated. Judgements of a creative unity however prevailed. Manoug Abeghian, historian of classical Armenian literature and student of folklore, who worked closely with Komitas to gather popular song and poetry, writes that: I went into... details so that it be clear that even as he refined popular music Komitas strove nevertheless not to diverge from the native popular. The evaluation recurs among those familiar both with his music and that of the common people's. Mesrop Maranchian for example believes that: `Komitas leaves the song essentially the same, but puts upon it his personal stamp, fires it with his style, with his spirit that was deeply Armenian.' It is `difficult to separate or distinguish Komitas's creation from that of the people and vice-versa' Gasparayan correctly concludes adding that the `essence of his legacy' rests in an original `creative refinement and arrangement' of equally `creative popular endeavour'. One should here emphatically add that the appreciation of this legacy requires no comparison with or measure against the norm or standard of European music. One could submit that with an unusual genius Komitas took on and arranged popular musical forms without qualitative transformation but in a manner that enables a new national and universal appreciation. III. A debate To properly appreciate the significance and indeed the historical necessity of Komitas's project and to dispose of any possible crude conceptions of a 'pure blooded' national music free of foreign influences (that Komitas totally rejected), it is worth pondering some questions that present themselves. What is an `authentic' `national' music? Is music not always heterogeneous in character, especially in regions such as Armenia that are so nationally diverse, let alone in today's global reality? Is not music, more so even than language, open to new chords and notes, more easily absorbed across national or cultural borders, especially for peoples living cheek by jowl. In fact is cross fertilisation, osmosis and metamorphosis in such conditions not the actual, authentic, organic process of musical development? In Armenia, a popular musical tradition of mixed inspiration was both inevitable and natural. With adjacent or mixed Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic and Persian villages, mutual influence produced music that was actually expressive of a multi-national land often bound together by a thousand and one other social, cultural and community threads. It was the people themselves in their labours and relations with neighbours of other cultures that created and sang 'compound' songs deeming these adequate reflections upon their own real lives. Would the distilling out of alleged extraneous streams not be akin to truncating or even crippling a living, creative music generated by the people themselves? Would this not diminish popular song; impoverish it by denuding it of riches acquired in the actuality of daily life defined by co-existence with other peoples? A music thus refined, `cleansed' and given singular national definition, beautiful as it could be, would at any rate cease to be music of the rural common people who then constituted the majority of the Armenian nation. In its new form it is external to their lives, their daily experience, it has separated itself off from its rural muses that remain multi-national in the inspiration they offer. That creativity such as Komitas's could possibly fertilise the birth of a new nationally accented tradition is not in question. But could it be a genuinely, all embracing national music? Komitas's music catered perhaps primarily for urban Armenian communities and of course such communities, with all their cultural needs, are central to and put their stamp upon the shape of any modern nation. But in the Armenian case this was a tiny Diaspora urban population centred in Istanbul, Tbilisi and beyond, removed and largely remote from the process of national development in the Armenian homelands. Did Komitas not utilise the fruit of popular culture in the homeland harvesting it but offering it back, legitimately of course, to a transitory, ephemeral diaspora-based elite educated after the European fashion? A master scholar Komitas could not but acknowledge the reality, fact, and inevitability, of mutual musical influence among different peoples. He stated explicitly that a national music untouched by foreign influence was a mirage or idiocy at the least. 'Passionately asserting the uniqueness of our national music' writes Broutian `Komitas simultaneously affirmed the inescapable fact of cross-fertilisation, angrily exclaiming': 'Which is the music on the face of the earth that is unmixed and pristine? To our knowledge, only that of beasts, who sing with the same chords and have no means of exchange. (p52) What then is the nature and essence of his labour of 'cleansing and purifying' Armenian music? Komitas's case for a unique, nationally defined Armenian music, passionately patriotic as it was, was always framed in a universal democratic context. He made no claim to recovering a 'pure blooded' national music understanding among other things for example, that: 'In their development all western nations obtained nourishment from the legacy of classical Greek civilisation and that of the Latin. But (emphasis added) nevertheless, each individual western nation has its own unique music that is neither Greek nor Latin.' Applying these principles to Armenian civilisation and to the music of the Armenian people Komitas contested views that Armenian music was a Byzantine, Arabic or Assyrian derivative. His case was strong enough to convince stubborn opponents even among some of his Berlin professors. At a last performance in Berlin as Komitas prepared to depart for home Professor Max Zeifert offered a significant tribute: 'From now on no one can have any doubt about the singular identity of Armenian music. In what we have heard here today the national particularity and passion is explicitly evident. Go work in the Armenia you love. Safe journey (KP63)!'. Neither in Komitas's project was there any claiming of the superiority of Armenian in the mosaic of sound that was formed of Kurdish, Assyrian, Greek, Turkish, Armenian and other peoples' music. Incidentally, on smaller scales, he did for Turkish and Kurdish music what he did for Armenian. Hratchia Ajarian, awesome linguist and etymologist testifies: 'He also gathered Turkish songs. When I, surprised, asked him "how can a famous singer like you value the song of such ordinary Turkish singers?" he replied "They are born geniuses and we must record their labours too."' Komitas's central intent, pursued within the complicated and distorting context of a substantially Diaspora centred cultural and intellectual labour of nation formation, was to reveal and secure recognition of the distinctive and defining features of an Armenian musical tradition as an independent component of human civilisation and one that was then being destroyed by Ottoman barbarism, disrupted in its development by a die-hard conservative Church hierarchy and of course demeaned by European Orientalist arrogance. IV. Music for national survival Theories and ambitions must always be considered in historical context. Komitas and his comrades from other spheres of national cultural could do no other. Their project was born of historical necessity and had moreover unchallengeable legitimacy, born as it was in the era of global nation-formation, in the era of the European demeaning of the culture of small nations and most significantly for Armenians in the decades of the 19th and 20th centuries defined by the Ottoman-Turkish engineered destruction and Genocide of the Armenian people. Komitas's was a global age of nation-formation that, including music, was redefining national culture and language, ironing out variation, cleansing elements deemed foreign and jarring of fluent flow in order to create a single dominant culture. In music, like language, it was a process of overcoming the provincial-regional to create a modern national form that could unite a whole people. For Armenians this process became a very condition for their survival as an independent community in their historic homelands. Now at the furthest edge of the 19th century, their very physical existence was under severest threat. Even as an urban Armenian intelligentsia in Istanbul, Tbilisi and Baku poured energy, enthusiasm, intellect and creativity into the realm of a regenerating culture, language, literature, history and music, in the homelands, its living carriers, the communities embodying this culture, were being ruthlessly maimed, dismembered and uprooted. To survive the annihilating onslaught Armenians were forced toward independent, separate nation-formation with all the necessary cultural scaffolding. Bent on securing its own ascendancy a nationalist Turkish elite, embedded in the imperial state, refused to countenance equal democratic coexistence of the peoples upon whom the Ottoman Empire depended. As far back as the 1830s Turkish-Ottoman nationalism, born toxic, had already set in train that strategic process of assimilation, deportation or slaughter of all in Asia Minor who dared resist Turkification. It was Turkish nationalism, wielding the sword, the prison and the gallows of an imperial state that announced the end of any prospect for a diverse, Swiss-style democratic national co-existence at any level of society. Albeit part of a wider global process the Armenian national revival was fundamentally a reaction to the steady strangulation of the Armenian people who inhabited Ottoman occupied western Armenia. The struggle to defend distinct yet co-existing Armenian communities in historic Armenia demanded a national movement as the only option short the annihilation. Turkish nationalism had announced its world view - only its own strain of culture and nationality would be tolerated, all others, including the ancient Armenian were to be scalped. Become Turkish or vanish was the credo of a Turkish chauvinism that left no room for options. Ironically, this process was executed by a Turkish nationalism that was itself cleansing its Turkish language and music of naturally acquired Armenian, Greek, Persian, Arabic and other influences. For Armenians, as for Assyrians, Kurds and the Arabic peoples, the cultural and social co-existence and cross-fertilisation that had generated the music of their villages, and not just the music, that had blended diverse national influences, was coming to a violent end. The sceptre of genocide was lashing the land. As the 19th moved to the 20th century the expulsion of Armenians from their towns and villages, the forced abandonment of their religion, language and culture was accelerating with intensified violence. Hundreds of thousands were snapped from their roots and hurled into ghettoes across the globe whilst their land, homes and their belongings were seized by usurers and thieves. To survive, Armenians and other nations had to resort not just to political organisation and armed self-defence but to the development of a distinct national culture, to the recovery and reconstruction of a history and music, a language and an art inherited long before the appearance of the Ottoman and Turkish communities in historic Armenia. V. The tragedy and the magnificence Komitas was arrested by Turkish police in 1915 together with the vast bulk of the Armenian intelligentsia in the Ottoman Empire. Most were murdered. Komitas survived to die in 1935. But in the years between he did not live. Following his return to Istanbul he suffered major trauma from which he did not recover. Fraught, tense and almost obsessive in dedication to music and the Armenian people, the mass murder of 1915 and the destruction of his papers, his life work, proved a fatal blow. For twenty years thereafter Komitas endured as a recluse, uttering hardly a word, in material misery, in the closets of mental hospitals first in Istanbul and then in France. The Genocide of 1915 was the last major phase of the Turkish nationalist onslaught that destroyed the central pillar and foundation of the Armenian nation. The Armenian communities of historical western Armenia that constituted the majority of the Armenian people were annihilated. This destruction was an unparalleled human, cultural and musical disaster. In the dismembered, truncated, and pitiably small segment of eastern Armenia that remained, proper scope and expanse for an independent, self-sustaining national development, let alone the development of a national musical tradition, was severely limited. Passages in these volumes that construct a historical-political background to Komitas's work leading to the years of the Genocide shock with stark revelations of the miserably irresponsible conduct by the Armenian elites in Istanbul. Totally out of touch and unconscious of the real import of that which was occurring in the homeland, they operated in a fatal bubble of illusory optimism. In 1913, two years before the great killings, this leadership mobilised vast material and intellectual resources, an enthusiastic Komitas amongst them, for what proved to be a meaningless extravaganza - the 1500th anniversary celebration of Armenian letters and the 500th of Armenian printing. An accompanying jingoism and patriotic sentimentality blinded them further to the scale of repression, murder, forced migration and property seizures in western Armenia, facilitated it should be noted by the 1908 ARF's disarming of its self-defence units. These were months of erupting Young Turk chauvinism, of orchestrated anti-Armenian hysteria. Yet the leadership devoting energy to this jamboree acted as though there was nothing ominous on the horizon. With naive confidence in relations with the Young Turks, they took delight in the presence at these celebrations of two of the head executioners of the people - Djemal and Talaat pashas. If at all concerned or troubled especially given evidence of deteriorating ARF-Young Turk relations, they turned to beg of Europe to deal with life and death matters so that they could devote themselves exclusively to their cultural festivities! In his world view Komitas personified such weaknesses. He rejected revolutionary politics believing art and culture alone, without the gun and the spade, could be adequate instruments for nation formation, a position that tragically became a mainstream in the years that followed the ARF-Young Turk alliance. There is in his vision, in addition, a hint of dependency politics with a suggestion of an inferiority complex that seeks European commendation for one's national accomplishments. Komitas saw the presentation of Armenian culture and in his case music to Europe as a vital step in Armenian national survival, believing that if Europe realised the nobility of Armenian civilisation it would readily defend the Armenian nation and people against Ottoman barbarism. Yet for all this and for all else Komitas's work remains a monumental magnificence. A universe of wondrous sound, a celebration of life, balm for souls, a musical wave upon which to rise above and challenge the harshness of everyday. Komitas's legacy is also an epic drama, a musical reconstruction of a world now tragically vanished, a majestic musical museum. He had always insisted that folk song and music were a mirror, an image of the common people's existence, 'each song a beautifully framed picture from the life of the people (CB133)'. This song and music records and reflects their world-view and their lives. In it are registered the social, the national and the class contradictions, the brutalities of forced migration, their resistance, their sentiments, hopes, desires and fears, their rituals, beliefs and superstitions, their joys and their suffering and most beautifully their hopes. Komitas's work preserves all this in beautiful musical harmony. Debate his musical theory or politics, but not the glory of his music! Questions the man's ambition and conceptions, but not the power and the emotion of his compositions and arrangements! Komitas's music moved the soul of those who heard him conduct his amateur choirs, who listened to him singing and playing the piano. Audiences were enraptured and critics bowled over. For communities only recently driven from their homeland Komitas's music was a bridge of return. A contemporary admirer Karekin Levonian writes: 'Whoever you may have been, it was impossible just for a moment not to forget your everyday and relocate yourself in spirit and in heart, there were the genius of the rural population created those songs.' Komitas's magic endured into the late 20th century. For the Diaspora he created a musical homeland away from home. For Charents in early Soviet Armenia, Komitas's music featured perhaps as a counterpoint to the Stalin era that delivered another blow to Armenian nation formation, while for Barouyr Sevak in the 1960s he served as inspiration for the emergence of a new confident national sensibility. Today Komitas appears in most repertoires, his music utilised by artists of diverse and even most modernist genres, for it still enhances, lifting us beyond ourselves, touching the hidden grandeur of inner essence, spirit and dream and alas, alas reminding us of a world that is no more. * * * * * Note 1: Whilst the many potholes, cracks and crevices in these volumes have been happily swung round, two, both in Gasparyan, are too wide and ugly and allow no silent detour. Gasparyan starts out on an obnoxious footing. According to his crude historic generalisation, the Armenian literary and cultural renaissance would have come to naught had it not for example and inspiration a `magnificent' Russian genius. Such unforced, post-Stalin, sycophantic bowing to Russian great-nation chauvinism is accompanied by criminal Stalin era diatribe against the ARF, denying it any credit even in its early progressive role in the national liberation movement, charging it, sickeningly, in addition with responsibility for the genocide (p47). One even hostile to the ARF is put off in disgust. A worst sort of vulgar and crude Marxist, Gasparyan appears to also have a problem with Komitas's famous Mass. It is judged to be of only 'social and historic interest', bereft of authentic artistic value, music that does not endure with any meaning for secular sensibilities. Would Gasparyan thus dismiss all medieval Church music? Are the Armenian religious themes salvaged by Komitas inferior to the European so widely applauded? Has Gasparyan paid no heed, or rejected Komitas's argument that Armenian Church music is born of the same womb as its folk music? Note 2: In the event of references, abbreviations are SG for `Komitas' by S Gasparyan (240pp, 1961); CB for `Komitas' by Cecelia Broutian (224pp, 1969) and KP for `Komitas As He Was' by Khachig Patigian (432pp, 2002) -- Eddie Arnavoudian holds degrees in history and politics from Manchester, England, and is Groong's commentator-in-residence on Armenian literature. His works on literary and political issues have also appeared in Harach in Paris, Nairi in Beirut and Open Letter in Los Angeles.
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