Armenian music is one of the centuries-old spheres of the Armenian people’s culture. Arising from the entrails of national folklore, the roots of Armenian music art reach millennia. Bearing cultural impact of neighboring civilizations it was able to recycle and nationalize some elements, at the same time, left the influence of its national palette, giving it universal values.
Folk music is one of the important parts of the spiritual culture of the Armenian people. In the term “Armenian folk music”, in rural and urban setting, besides it created by non-specialist creators, usually also includes the art of folk specialized composers-gusan and ashux. Armenian original folk music is a typical product of collective fabrication, passed down from generation to generation exclusively through oral communication and at all times served as a stylistic basis and nourishing source for all other types and branches of national song art.
Armenian folk music is unanimous with its general structure. Consists of melodious (solo, duet, choral song), instrumental (soloist and ensemble) and song types. There are also different types of singing and playing accompanying solo and group dances. The main role belongs to singing.
The basis of the formation of Armenian music is the monody, just a melodic beginning. During many centuries its basic diatonic sound has been developed and confirmed consisting of the connection of major four strings. The tempo isn’t equal, due to which there is an extraordinary set of intervals in the phonemes. Sound recordings are monotonic, come with not only natural but also alternating degrees, which gives rise to new, particularly enlarged, second intervals in sound recording. “Harmonic” sound recording, containing four strings, occupies a separate place with a second level descending and a third-level rising. In all sound recordings the function of auxiliary base has been retained since ancient times, which in each sound recording is in a new interval relation with tonic. Due to its unique diatonic sound tempo, variety of natural and alternative music recordings and auxiliary soundtracks and bases, Armenian folk music recordings have a rich dynamic and tonal expression and have become an important factor in determining the originality of that music. In music, they are related to one another clearly and together they form a complete system.
The rhythm is rich. Both in vocal and instrumental music different principles of rhythm formation are applied equally- dancing (with relatively short, repetitive rhythmic images), singing (with relatively long, non-repetitive rhythmic images) and improvisation (various rhythmic images based on free meters), as well as their various combinations. The expressive significance of rhythmic development, in particular rhythmic tuning, is especially evident in long, continuous tunes, where continuous sound flow leads to concentration of thought and intensity of tension. The pronounced impulse of the rhythm of the seasons is also typical due to the variety of mixed meters.
Armenian folk music is obviously different from the music of other eastern people. Armenian folk music with its ideological-emotional content and music-style features has completed and multiplied worldwide folklore with a complete and high-quality segment of national vividness.
Armenian folk music comes with rural and urban variants, which have played an important role in forming and developing national specialized (composing) art.
Setting to music
A number of poetry origins of Armenian folk songs have been founded in medieval manuscript book of songs, where they have also traces of khazagrutyun. The regular collection of originals dates back to the second half of the 19th century (Alishyan, Komitas, Lalayan, Abexyan and many others).
Setting to music of seasons until the third quarter of the 19thcentury, also performed by Russian musicians, was casual. From the second half of 19th century handwritten songbooks containing folk songs with Armenian notes were spread. Regular collection and record of seasons dates back to 1870s, first from the performer with immediate listening, then from 1913 also with recording devices. The greatest gratitude to Komitas in this sphere is that Armenian folk music has been shown with all its diversity and full of ideological and artistic depth. Though collected songs (published more than 2000 samples) are products of various times and places, perform stylistic integrity of Armenian folk song.
For centuries the development of Armenian music was led by stable ideological and compositional norms. Its own system of means of expression developed and its own modes of application, unique musical-poetic forms, and unique architectures of structures, together with the unique way of expressing emotion, have made this music a traditional art of national character.
The development of Armenian music went through several historical stages-ancient (4-1 millennia BC), old (from sixth century BC to third century AC), early medieval (4-7 centuries), developed medieval (9-14 centuries), late medieval (17-18 centuries), new centuries (from 19 century to the first half of 20 century), newest (from 1918).