Interview with Edward Manukyan
Shrjadardz Magazine (Published in September, 2010)
“Edward Manukyan is the modern Sayat Nova. His compositions are very interesting and unique, and they sound very Armenian. They are meditative and have face and soul.”
"To me, the most important thing in life is the honest assessment of reality…"
Edward Manukyan was born in 1981, in the city of Armavir, Armenia. The soon-to-be composer developed his interest in music only in his late teens. In 1998 he was granted a scholarship to study at the Psychology and English language faculty of the Yerevan State Linguistic University. He began to play the piano and study music theory at the same time. Due to the rapid developments of his talents and his strong will power, he soon became an inseparable part of a few local ensembles, contributing to their active repertoire.
Manukyan moved to the United States in 2002 and became the student of the American composer Rowan Taylor and studied symphonic music, orchestration, etc. From 2005 to 2007 he continued his study at the California State University, Los Angeles. He earned a Master of Music Degree, presenting his first Symphony, dedicated to the 15th anniversary of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union. Since his student years, Manukyan’s music has been performed by numerous notable musicians, bringing the composer an international reputation. What lie at the basis of Manukyan’s style are the core elements of Armenian folklore and the spontaneous use of modern techniques.
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What were the dreams of your childhood?
When I was a child, I was very interested in painting and attended an arts school. The desire to explore a particular branch of arts may be innate in a human being, or it may be that a person becomes interested in some field by chance and continues on in that direction. In my teens I constantly went from one thing to another, choosing my obsession - music, arts, science, literature… I remember that I was so inspired by Shakespeare’s works that I wrote a few plays of my own. When I was in my first year at the Linguistic University after Brusov, I realized that I had made the wrong decision. A foreign language is no profession; it’s just means of communication. Then my interest in music grew and I completely changed direction a few years later, already in the United States.
How did the love for classical music come about?
I never miss an opportunity to talk about that. It all came to me when I listened to selections from Aram Khachaturian’s ballet “Spartacus” in 2003, for the first time. It was that magical experience which irreversibly changed my future.
What do you consider important in life? Do you value being famous?
I am approaching my thirties, so I have begun to look at life somewhat philosophically. I’ve already had time to notice how the days of our lives can fly by in seconds. To me, the most important thing in life is the honest assessment of reality, the very knowing that despite our dreams and our deepest convictions, the world reveals itself through dry and unattractive facts that we ignore and detest. We often assign cosmic significance to certain events in our lives, but dry facts tell us that those events are trivially insignificant. And when you realize that you’re not so special, life's challenges become much easier to handle.
As for the question regarding fame, public acceptance obviously won't hurt anyone. But the real creative mind can live happily just being creative.
What do you think about the contemporary musical scene in Armenia?
During the years of the Soviet Union, they tried very enthusiastically to preserve the entire inheritance of our national music, by making recordings of folk music and songs by Armenian troubadours. Today they treat such inheritance very lightly and you can hear those beautiful tunes dressed up in tasteless rock and pop songs, with nothing added to its value. Hanging on to those recordings and manuscripts is not enough. It is necessary to continue developing the traditions. There are many things that make me happy. It gives me real joy to see that there is a Youth Symphony Orchestra in Armenia which does not lag far behind even the Armenian Philharmonic by its artistic maturity. I am also happy that there are a number of ensembles which regularly play folk music. But unfortunately our folk music is no longer in public demand, at least nearly as much as it was during the Soviet times.
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Edward Manukyan is one of the most distinguished Armenian composers of his generation. In recent years, his chamber/instrumental works have created a noticeable international acclaim.
(Reposted from Shrjadardz Monthly. Translated into English by Anna Karapetyan.)
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