During a difficult creative crisis in the field of writing spiritual songs in the late Middle Ages, the further fate of specialized music passed on to masters of secular art and secular composers, bards. They not only contributed to the development of domestic musical art but also the neighboring nations.
The role of the minstrel music and instrument in urban life has increased since the 10th century. It presented a rich and clear image of constituents, from sad songs to entertaining works. Gusan instrumentalism is also amplifying.
Unified art in Armenia, reaching the peak of development in the 12th-13th centuries, was supposed to give way to polyphony as a form of the new and revolutionary potential of late musical life. However, Armenia, Cilicia, the whole Armenian reality, artificially separated from the advanced musical movements so did the international Christian centers of economic and cultural life.
During this period, ancient Armenian bard music continues to live partly thanks to the gusans themselves, partly in the way of life of the masses, where many of the native lands of the gusans were also preserved and even cultivated.
To appeal to the masses of the crowds with their art, Armenian gusans also had to speak Turkish at that time, and in many cases had to obey the incoming foreign authorities. The latter, often striving to destroy Gusan’s ties with Armenians and Christianity, did not stop the cruelest measures. One of the most prominent representatives of medieval Gusan art, Hovhannes Manuk Hlateci, was killed in 1438 for refusing to convert to Christianity. In the next century, Nahapet Kuchak was already called “ashg” and, in addition to Armenian, he also wrote Armenian-Turkish songs.
“Ashugh” bards formed in the XVI-XVIII centuries. In the north of Persia and Western Armenia, in the Armenian-Turkish environment, as part of urban artisans. In XVII – XVIII centuries, when, in contrast to the difficult situation at residence, in the settlements, especially in the multilingual cities of Isfahan (New Dzhuga). Significant changes occurred in the Armenian communities of Constantinople and Tiflis.
Brought up in a multilingual environment, these musicians first had many things in common with many foreign ashugs in the Middle East. But they mainly served the Armenian refugees, expressed their thoughts, sorrows, and joys, and in their art there was at least a certain degree of Armenian national sounding, which gradually revealed itself, taking on a national form and image to awaken the national identity and culture of the Armenian of the people.
In the XVIII century the magnificent Sayat Nova, the greatest figure of the ashugs of Transcaucasia, performed the musical language of about 30 melodies of Armenian songs, organically enriched with elements of Georgian, Persian, Ottoman music, which is the nationality Armenian.
Modern Armenian musicians Sayat-Nova are distinguished by their drummer Harutyun, who summarized the experience and theory of oriental music. From this period, there is a well-known combination of conventionally called “folk” instruments: Kaman and kamancha, cantur and canon, ud and saz, tambour and tar, blul, shvi, duduk and pappus, tambourine and dhol.
Musicians – Poets
One of the most important phenomena of the era is the globalization of the spirit of the creation of the Armenian musician-poet style and the popularization of language and style. From a thematic point of view, secular work was based on achievements; the mystery of life and death and spiritual discipline, nature, and love, and patriotism.
The oldest known Armenian tomb is the writing of Hakob Mehgapart, after which European singers Vrtanez Srnketsi, Minas Tohatetsi, and others take a serious part in the development of the scribe (songbooks). In the tombs, there are also samples of songs by the poets Hovhannes Tlkurentsi, Mkrtich Nagash, and Grigoris Akhtamartsi. Anonymous Armenian singers, talented creators of folk songs, in particular, tag songs, who did a great job to evaluate and mark their time, are noteworthy. The unique and richly saturated song of the Armenian scribe, which is a fine art and becomes a kind of literature in the work of Mkrtich Nagash.
The Armenian novel rises to a new level of development in the XVII-XVIII centuries. Notable authors include Naghash Hovnatan, Paghtasar Dpir, and Petros Chapany. Nagash Hovnatan, with his love and festive songs, develops the traditions of the previous period (lyrics of the XV-XVI centuries), at the same time perceiving certain aromas of ashug creation.
Pagtasar Dpir is associated with Turkish-Armenian bard art and used both Armenian and general oriental melodies when choosing ways for his earthly (especially love) songs.
There are no references to Turkish or Oriental songs in Petros Ghapanzi’s songbook. His works were related to the Armenia or Armenian style as a whole.
In the secular world, the number of singers and musicians is growing, but their names, unfortunately, are unknown.
In XVII – XVIII centuries, Armenian scholars worked on assembling medieval autonomous and translated bibliographic works of music and even collected complete articles. To supplement their knowledge, they turn to eastern musical sources, the Byzantine theory of audiovisual art, Western European music which can be seen in the works of Avetik Bagtasaryan (the reader of Tigranakertzi), Zenne-Poghos, Khachatur from Erzrum and Mghitar Sebastaci.
Grigor Dapasakalyan, while formulating and classifying medieval Armenian music and aesthetic terms, is trying to create a new system for writing a trial instead of a crisis, mixed with Armenian, common Eastern and Byzantine elements. And although he does not succeed, he sets the beginning of modern Armenian archaeological science. This is particularly encouraging for the creation of a new Armenian record by Hambardzum Limonchjyan.
Translated by Mariam Ispoiryan