Antiquity and the Middle Ages
The Armenian musical qualitative originality formed In the III сentury BC. Historical information about the pagan rites of the ancient Armenians, in particular, about the gohtan singers` art, gusans (Armenian folk singers) and vipasans (storytellers), was mentioned in the writings of ancient Armenian historians of V century Movses Khorenatsi and Faustus Byzantium. Among the songs of pre-Christian Armeniathe fragments of poetic lyrics survived, which narrate about Ara the Beautiful and Assyrian queen Shamir, of the king Artashes etc. They were performed under the musical accompaniment.
Khorenatsi, while describing the history of the ancient Armenian mythology, wrote: "The same exactly is said in the songs worthy of listing, carefully preserved, as I heard, by the residents of wine-rich region Goltn. Among them there are songs, which tell about Artashes and his sons, and also those, which mention the descendants of Azhdahak, calling them allegorically dragon-born, because in our language Azhdahak means dragon ... ".
Khorenatsi mentions pandir – the musical instrument, which was played for ancient Armenian songs: "Our own ears were listening to the singing of this (song), accompanied by pandir," - he wrote, telling of ancient Armenian God-slayer Vahagn.
Pavstos Buzand (V century) is no less rich in information about the music of ancient Armenia. In particular, he mentioned the instrumentalists, playing drums, srings, knaras and pipes. The information in the field of instrumental music is very scarce, however, the description of some musical instruments survived, as well as their names. So, among the brass band there were: sring - flute type, ehdzherapoh - horn, pokh - copper pipe, the drums were: tmbuk - drum, the string group: bambirn - instrument with a plectrum, pandir, Knar - type of lyre, dzhnar - kvariety, win - variety of knar.
After 301 year, when the Great Armenia officially adopted Christianity as the state religion, the foundation for the development of music of the Armenian Christian church was laid. Armenian Christian music, along with Aramaic, Hebrew, Cappadocia, is the basis of common Christian music culture, representing a huge historical interest.
Since the end of the IV century in Armenian higher schools the singing courses were introduced, which Agatangeghos informs about. At the same time, the Armenian clergy treated negatively to the previous pagan musical heritage. For example, in 365, the Ashtishat Cathedral issued an order, prohibiting the performance of mourning songs during the funeral procession.
Already in the V-VII centuries, new and more complicated forms of Armenian folk music occurred, expansion of the range of its intonations and renewal of the themes was historically due to the appearance of early feudalism. Former art by gusans continues its development, in spite of the persecution of the church. Although the Armenian professional music was in charge of the church, at the same time, it was strongly influenced by folk art. The establishment in the year 406 of the Armenian alphabet played a huge role in the development of church music. The Armenian schools (vardapetaran) taught music theory, composition and singing.
It is in the V-VI centuries the first spiritual songs (hymnography)were created, their first authors were Mesrop Mashtots, Sahak Partev, John Mandakuni, Stepanos Syunetsi (the elder), Komitas Ahtsetsi and others. Original simple forms of professional monodic music were the Psalms melodies, based on the musical traditions of pagan worship. Later ktsurds evolved, later they became sharakans (spirituals, hymnography). Armenian spiritual music of that era borrowed the tonal system of peasant songs. The first musical compositions– sharakans, introduced in the V century,are characterized by clarity of content and brevity of forms, their melodies and lyrics are simple, mainly in low volume. In the same century the voices were systematized.
Significant development of Armenian music account for the era of developed feudalism, in the X-XIII centuries. That was contributed by the restoration Armenian national statehood in the middle of the IX century. In the X century a new professional direction of monodic music – tag- was created. Tags were long secular or spiritual vocal plays of dramatic, epic, lyrical and contemplative character.
In the X century Anania Narekatsi wrote the work "On the knowledge of voices", dedicated to the history of music. Musical notation system perfected in the XI century with the advent of "khazzes of manrusuma". It allowed to capture the melodymore accurately.
The collection of songs "Hazgirk" was created, which was a kind of teaching aids. A major role in the development of ancient Armenian music was played by Nerses Shnorhali (XII century), who composed numerous songs, tags and sharakans. Shnorhali completed the creation of sharaknots and patarag (liturgy).
Ancient Armenian musical notation
According to the author of the V century Lazar Parpetsi, originally Armenians used the alphabet to write the music. Ancient Armenian musical notation - Khazy, appeared in VIII-IX centuries. Stepanos Syunetsi, presumably, wasthe initiator of its creation. Since the XII century it started developping in Cilicia, where Nerses Shnorhali, Grigor Hoole (XII century), Gevorg Skevratsi (XIII century) and others improved technology of Khazy system and performing interpretation of its signs. It is known more than 40 major and 30 subsidiary, as well as many derived signs. Khazy are divided into three main categories. A huge number of voluminous manuscript volumes survived, containing Khazy records of medieval secular and spiritual compositions. There are manuscripts with ekphonetic notation from the IX century.
During that era the number of artists and musicians was increasing. At the same time Armenian scientists of XVII-XVIII centuries continued to study the musical heritage of medieval manuscripts. Prominent music theorists of that time were Avetik Pagtasaryan, Zenne-Boghos, Khachatur Erzrumtsi and Mkhitar Sebastatsi. Together with the study of ancient Armenian music, Grigor dpir Gapaskalyan (author of four musicological works) tries to create a new khazy system.
Ashug art, emerged in the middle of the XVI century, is a synthesis of musical and literature (poetry) culture. Ashugs are folk singers-poets, who played a significant role in the history of Armenian music. The main development of ashug art begins in the XVII century. Prominent Armenian ashugs of XVII-XVIII centuries are Egaz, Gul Arutinov, Bagher- son of Lazarus, and others. Ashug music is based on ancient traditions of folk art. Having learned the traditions of medieval tagasatses, Armenian ashugs composed original tunes. Already in the second half of the XIX century, those tunes were written by means of European musical notation. The texts of those songs are devoted to love, social, satirical and other topics.
XIX - early XX centuries
The most outstanding Armenian ashugs of the end of the XIX- beginning of XX century are Givani, Shirin, Sheram, Havasi. Since 1870's Armenian music figures S.Amatuni, K. Kara-Murza, N. Tigranyan, Komitas and others started collecting and notating the folk songs (also by means of the recording devices since 1913).
In 1813-1815 Hambardzum Limondzhyan created a new Armenian musical notation. At the same time the samplesof both folk music and sacred music were notated. In particular, N. Tashchyan notated 3 volumes of ancient Armenian spiritual music pieces. The new rise of musical culture began in the second half of the same century, caused by the national liberation ideas also. Both in Eastern and Western Armenia, and in general in Turkey, Armenian Musical and social life regenerate. Numerous songbooks ("Armenian National songbook" by Raphael Patkanyan, 1856, St. Petersburg), musical societies are created.
In addition to creation of associations of ashugs, performers on the duduk, kamancha, folk singers, and so on., the first musicians graduated from both Russian and Western Conservatories appear. At the same time instrumental ensembles and symphony orchestras are collected, among which the most significant one was the Orchestra of Sinanyan (1861-1896). E. Tntesyan, N.Tashchyan, G.O. Korganov, T. Chukhajyan and G. Yeranyan develop genres of choral and solo songs, romancein theit compositions, and Chukhajyan and Korganov – the instrumental music also. Since 1860's patriotic songs continue to be composed. It was during the second half of the XIX century, when a new national composition school appear.
In 1868 the composition by Tigran Chuhadzhyan of "Arshak II» - the first Armenian National Opera– was the historically significant event. In 1891 Chukhajyan composed opera "Zemirah", in 1897 - "Indiana". In the 1870's he composed 3 operettas, among which "Leblebidzhi" (1875) was the most popular. Together with Serovbe Benklyan Chukhajyan organized the first in the Middle East permanent professional operetta troupe.
Since the 1880's Armenian classical music began a new movement for the collection and processing of ancient folk songs by professional composers. Among those composers there were Makar Yekmalyan, Christopher Kara-Murza and Nikoghayos Tigranyan. Since that period one of the most important figures in the history of Armenian music - Komitas- started to operate, who played a key role in the new revival of original national musical style. His versatile activity defined way of further development of Armenian music throughout the following centuries. Creativity by Alexander Spendiaryan Armenian made the new history of the symphony and vocal-symphonic music (the suite "The Crimean sketches" - 1903 and 1912, symphonic play "Three palm trees" - 1905 and others.)
In 1919 in Tiflis a Society of Armenian music theorists was established.
During thiat period, the vocal music rapidly developed. Singers Nadezhda Papayan, Tigran Nalbandian, Armenak Shahmuradyan (soloist of the Grand Opera), Margarita Babayan, Beglar Amirjan, Constantine, Hovhannes, Heghine, Nune and Maria Korganova performance at various Russian and European scenes. Great musical activities was done by pianists Stepan Elmasyan, Carl Mikulov, Adamyan sisters, conductor Alexander Aslanov (in 1912-1918 he led the Orchestra of the Mariinsky Theatre), violinists David Davtyan and Hovhannes (Ivan) Nalbandian.
Many Armenian composers, musicians, conductors, forced to emigrate as a result of the Armenian genocide of the Ottoman Empire, developed a national musical culture around the world.
At the end of 1920 the Republic of Armenia established the Soviet regime. In 1923, the Yerevan Music Studio (organized in 1921) was transformed into the Yerevan State Conservatory. In the next 1924 the Symphony Orchestra of Yerevan State Conservatory was organised, which first conductors were Alexander Spendiarov and Alexander Melik-Pashayev. At the same time Russian and Western European opera and operetta were performanced in Alexandropol by the best musicians of the country. In 1925 several Armenian students of the Moscow Conservatory founded the quartet, which was later named after Komitas.
In the 1930's the active creative activity was started by one of the greatest composers of the XX century - Aram Khachaturian. The first symphony (1934), Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1936), a symphonic poem with chorus (1938), the first Armenian ballet "Happiness" (1939), Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1940), composed in the 1930's and early 1940's, are outstanding products of not only Armenian but also of the world music.
In 1930s pieces for various instruments in chamber-instrumental genre were composed, among them - pieces for violin by Khachaturian, quartets by A. Stepanyan and others. The genre of romance significantly developed as well.
In that genre A. Isahakyan`s product was of great importance. The mass song continued its development as well and became popular thanks to M. Mirzayan, K. Zakarian, M. Mazmanian, B. Talyan and others. Choral arrangements of folk songs by A.K. Kocharyan and others gained the most popularity.
In the further development of Armenian music the Great Patriotic Warplayed its value. In those years songs, glorifying the heroism of the people, were composed. Mainstream pop songs and marches by Khachaturian, G. Yeghiazaryan, M. Mirzayan, A. Ayvazyan, A. The Merangulyana, E. Sagaruni, K.O. Zakaryan and others became well-known. A. Khachaturian`s Second Symphony, The First Symphony by A. Stepanian, the poem "Armenia" by G. Yeghiazaryan, pieces by T. Ter-Martirosyan etc were composedin the classical-symphonic genre. The opera "David-bek" by A. Tigranyan and "Namus" by L. Hodge -Eynatova were composed in the opera genre, "Gayane" by Khachaturian - in ballet genre etc.