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By Barlow Der Mugrdechian

Volume five of the six volume series The Music of Armenia has recently been released by Celestial Harmonies. Composer David Parsons has continued his exploration into the sacred and folk traditions of Eastern Armenians with this double CD devoted to the folk music of Armenia. In this latest production, listeners enjoy the traditional music of Armenia: rural work songs, urban folk songs, contemporary protest songs from the disputed Karabagh region, laments, songs of emigration, and the universal topic of love. Unlike the earlier volumes in this series, which have featured a single ensemble or soloist, the folk songs and dances in this collection are performed by no fewer than two ensembles and a number of vocal soloists.

Western Armenian music, from the region of Vaspourakan (Van), is also included on both CDs. Longing for the lost Western Armenian provinces runs deep through the music on the CDs.

The music represent Armenia’s unique geographical position as a crossroads between Asia and Europe. Many of the performers of these pieces also performed in the earlier CDs of the series. Again, such instruments as the duduk, kanon, kamancha, dhol, zurna, and shevi are used. The duduk and the kamancha have the most important role in the music since they are best suited to performing the intricately ornamented Armenian songs.

The Shoghaken Folk Ensemble and the Sasun Folk Group perform many of the pieces. The Shoghaken Folk Ensemble was founded in 1991 by Gevorg Dabaghian and uses only traditional instruments. Its aim is to recreate the authentic sound of Armenian music without outside influences.

The Sasun Folk Group was founded in 1988 in the village of Nerkin Bazmaberd by Andranik Manukian. The group specializes in the folk songs and dances of Mush and Sasun in Western Armenia.

Recorded in the Ardzakank Recording Studio in Yerevan, this CD set reveals the rich cultural history of Armenia through music. Volume is highly recommended for its authentic sound and highly evocative music.