Saturday, September 3, 2016

Review: Komitas, The Artist and The Martyr



Komitas, The Artist and The Martyr by Serge Momjian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

*I received a copy from the author/publisher in exchange for my honest, unbiased review* 
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Komitas is the skillful artist-priest who tours the remote villages in his homeland, collecting and transcribing folk songs. His long, scrupulous research work as an ethnomusicologist enables him to trace the pre-Christian roots of Armenian sacred music, and bring its folk music to a high standard. He lectures on these topics at the International Musical Society, to which he is admitted as the first non-European member. He plays there a crucial role in introducing the unique musical heritage of Eastern cultures to the West. Although he is a celebrity musician and his lectures and songs are widely acclaimed, his secular performances of sacred music in his homeland and abroad put him on a collision course with the conservative clergy of his church, opening the gates of hell upon him. On the night of 24 April 1915 – known as Red Sunday – Komitas is arrested along with 200 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders and deported far inland by the Ottoman government as a prelude to a premeditated plan to annihilate the Armenian population of Anatolia. Though he is among the few who are reprieved, the terrible nightmare he has experienced, from which he never mentally recovers, takes him into asylums, where he spends the last twenty years of his life in seclusion, his complex inner world governed by the ineradicable images of his past. This compelling book, based on concrete facts and events and written in commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide, serves to make past periods and people come alive in an entertaining dialogue.

This is a powerful account of one of Armenia's greatest musical minds, and the tragic life he led. Singing from a very young age, and having felt the pain of loss at a young age, his story is one of both strength and suffering. This book is a brilliant account of Komitas' life, both detailed and thoroughly researched. The author took the time to gather all the facts, and it shows in this book, going from Komitas' birth all the way to death, the story is well told, and a great resource for anyone interested in musical history, or Armenian history, as well as those who enjoy reading of important people, and passionate artists throughout history.
Overall I really enjoyed reading this and learning about  Soghomon Soghomonian (Komitas) and his life's work. Being one of the many musicians I haven't heard mentioned in history, it was both an enjoyable and enlightening read. Telling both about his life's work finding the 'true' sound of Armenia's music, as well as all the horror he faced in that part of Armenia's history, this book gives a great account of his life, and how the events and people he met along the way shaped him and his music.

About the Author:
Serge Momjian studied journalism in London and then attended a degree course in fiction writing. Since then he has worked as a reporter, covering arts and culture for major publications, including Beirut's Daily Star newspaper and London's Events news magazine. He devoted his time to writing novels by the time he reached his forties. His works include Conflicting Motives, The Invisible Line, The Singer of the Opera and Memories of the Past, all published in London. During his literary career his innovative writings have brought him praise and a good reputation. Komitas, The Artist and The Martyr is written in commemoration of the centenary of the Armenian Genocide. The book, based on concrete facts and events, serves to make past periods and people come alive in an entertaining dialogue.