Home » Introduction to Armenian Folk Instruments
In ancient and medieval Armenia, as in Armenia today, Armenian instruments played a tremendous role, particularly in the formation of a specially Armenian artistic culture. In this process, the instruments themselves evolved, changing in parallel with the evolution of the culture. What we call folk instruments is an undivided part of Armenia’s culture heritage.
As fate forced Armenian’s to leave their homeland, they carried with them songs, useful objects, bits of land, relics and musical instruments. Some of these instruments have survived to this day in Armenian diaspora. Museums in Armenia also preserve many. Among them are the lyutna, bambir, keman, santour, knar, sring, saz, tar, camancha, dsndsgha, naghara, pku and tavigh.
Alexander Spendiaryan, music composer, conductor, founder of Armenian national symphonic and one of the patriarchs of Armenian classical music says:
While in Tiflis I got to know Armenian folk musical instruments. Their distinctive and original sound, as well as the mastery of the musicians playing them, brought to us the conviction that it would be possible to create a very interesting ensemble with these instruments. I was surprised that composers hadn’t done anything in that respect yet. I began heartily advising them to create major works for such musicians, and to include Armenian folk instruments in the music, too. The works could include rhapsodies, fantasias, concertos, even operas.
In my opinion Armenian folk instruments have a particular place in the development of musical instruments in world of culture. They are worthy of the heartfelt protection of the Armenian people. Armenian sponsors must help preserve the place of these the place of these instruments in history.
Twenty-five thousand Armenian manuscripts have survived, a remnant of the treasure once stored up by the Armenian people. The manuscripts which have reached us through broad light on the history and culture of the Armenian people, of other nations.
Miniatures illustrating musical instruments are of great value to study of the fistory of music in Armenia. Many of the instruments have not survived, or have undergone substantial modifications as their medieval forms have gone out of use.
Armenian miniatures show the development of Armenian musical instruments from the thirteenth through the seventeenth centuries, the period of greatest creativity in Armenian instrumental music. Fifty nine different instruments appear in manuscripts of this period – both secular and sacred.
One of the most remarkable of Pavstos Byuzand (or Epic Histories):
They offered the first festive cup to King Pap, and all drummers, flutists, lyre-players, and trumpeters together skillfully sounded in the various voices. King Pap held the festive cup of wine in his hand and gazed upon the varied troop of gusans.
Komitas writes in Paris on 1906:
Research on the oldest Armenian musical instruments, their cataloguing, categorization and the recovering of forgotten methods of playing Armenian folk instruments requires long and painstaking work. In my opinion the woodwinds are the cornerstone of Armenian music, and have a distinction lacking in such instruments of other peoples. If mastered in their various modes, Armenian woodwinds would give the Armenian people harmony which will represent nature in its most varied hues, life in its many forms, and the heart in all its distinct emotions.