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String Harmonies {trinity} with Bassist Vik Momjian

String Harmonies {trinity} with Bassist Vik MomjianString Harmonies {trinity} with Bassist Vik Momjian… This musical adventure started when Vik Momjian contacted me and told me that our good friend and prior staff writer Damian Erskine (now over at “No Treble”) had suggested he send us his latest CD for possible review. I suspected I would be in for a real treat knowing that Damian had reviewed Vik’s previous CD  “Excursion” very favorably, and this was exactly the case!

Recommended Listening With Damian Erskine: Peter Deneff & Vik Momnjian | “Excursion”

Those of you that have read some of my reviews know that I really enjoy the great variety of music that comes from all over the world. I am greatly impressed with the differences in scale choices, tempos, time signatures and instruments that are used around the globe. In spite of the differences, there is so much that world music has in common with my “local” music that it confirms to me that it is all part of a “Universal Language”.

Here is a sample from the CD release party for String Harmonies {trinity}:

Let’s meet the players:

Vik Momjian                 6 string Contrabass guitar

Yervand Kalajian         Violin, string orchestra sections

Antranig Kzirian           Ouds

As soon as I started to listen, I was totally hooked on “Trinity” within 30 seconds of the first track; the Armenian flavor of this CD is exquisite. The three string instruments intertwine together flawlessly and in my opinion the bass brings the music to life; you really have to hear how it fits in this project to fully appreciate how tight the arrangements are and how amazingly the musicians interact.

The music itself is superb and the more I listened, I found that I really don’t have anything to compare it to (Mid-eastern or Greek music at best) so I turned to Vik for some help.

First, I wanted to know the details about the time signatures and here is the low-down from Vik himself. (I have included links to video of these tunes where I could find them.)

1) YERAZ/HOVIVNER/BIJO medley:

Slow 6/8. / slow 5/4. / fast 6/8. 

2) I WONDER IF IT IS YOU: slow 10/8

3) FOR MY FIRST LOVE: 4/4 (original composition by our Violinist Yervand Kalajian

4) TONIGHT AS THE SUN SETS: medium 9/8

5) ASUM EN TE/ BINGEOL medley: slow 6/8

6) MARILYN’s DANCE: 2/4 (my original composition)

7) ANOUSH KAROON/ADANAYI VOGHPUH: 4/4

8) VARIATION ON A TAMZARA: 9/8 (original composition by our Oud player Antranig Kzirian)

9) SARI SIROON YAR/AL AYLOOGHUS GORAV: medium 6/8 – fast 6/8

10) KHNJOOYKI YERK/HARS OO PESA: medium 10/8

11) PAROV YEGAR/ SIROON AGHCHIG medley: 2/4

I asked Vik to break down some of the details of the music on “Trinity”…

“So, as far as the specific style, it is ALL Armenian but, from VERY different regions and eras. 

Aside from the three original compositions on the album written by me, Yervand and Antranig (the three of us are also Armenian), the eight other compositions are written by Armenian composers between the late 1800s to the early 1970s.

Your mention of “Mid-eastern and Greek” is a good generalization, but again, all 11 tracks are written by Armenian composers ranging in specific styles of Ottoman/Anatolian to traditional folk Armenian to classical Soviet-era (post Armenian Genocide).

We wanted to “resurrect” some of the really old pieces and present them via “hi-fi” recording, and the hardest part of this, especially for me (besides the odd-meters and the microtonal scales) was to incorporate a six-string bass playing actual bass grooves AND upper register/extension modern western harmonies AND make it SOUND and FEEL natural, as if it belongs there!!! That of course is easier said than done since there is/was no precedent for me to follow or get ideas from previous to this recording.

Remember, the Oud and Violin are fretless instruments, and in the world of Armenian Folk/Ethnic/traditional music, they are using microtonal scales with multiple notes within a scale which are + or – 40% to 50%, so as the harmonic fretted instrument player, I’m having to stay clear/avoid the microtonal notes and/ or, use alternate/substitute chords and harmonies that do NOT contain the microtonal sharped or flatted notes and all the while keeping the “flavor” of the original tune! By doing this, I hope to have left some small iota of hope for these old pieces to be played WITH the participation of electric bass in the future.

Furthermore, this unique recording/instrumentation with the combination of six string fretted electric bass, Oud and Violin playing odd time signatures and microtonal scales of old compositions, as well as brand new originals written by the three members of  String Harmonies should hopefully encourage and entice younger musicians to expand their musical horizons both compositionally as well as instrumentation-wise!!”

When I asked Vik about his fellow musicians this is what he shared…

“As far as my Trinity CD “String Harmonies“ musical collaborators, Oud player Antranig Kzirian and violinist Yervand Kalajian are both stellar musicians and composers, and I’m quite fortunate to have had the opportunity to record this album with them.

Antranig IS from the younger generation of musicians and is very much in line with me as a forward thinker (which is not easy when you consider his instrument, the Oud), he’s been able to introduce the Oud and make it a permanent member of a Rock band/project. Also, he has recorded and toured with Serj Tankian, vocalist and front man of the band System of a Down.

Yervand is a consummate professional and quite a rare animal (for his instrument, the Violin) since he is capable of nailing a piece by Brahms and then turn on a dime and play one of the microtonal pieces from the recording AND improvise freely for days!!!!

He was recently featured on the soundtrack of the motion picture “Sex and the City” composed by Aaron Zigman, as well as “The Stoning of Soraya M” composed by John Debney.”

Finally, when I asked Vik about his set up he gave me these details…

“Since the revue is for a bass magazine, perhaps I should mention some gear related info.

My main instrument and the one I played on the CD is an MTD American made 635-24 “Marilyn” model (52 built so far per Michael Tobias), which has a hollow sound chamber and a piezo ghost system pickup built into the bridge, which I ran thru a vintage late 70s Walter Woods single Chanel with FETs as a Preamp and right into the sound interface going to Digital Performer.

The full range and huge bottom (which can be attributed to the Piezo) can be appreciated when listening to the tracks on a high quality audio system with a GOOD subwoofer, or, a good pair of studio quality (flat) headphones.

The Walter Woods amp is the magical piece of gear that gave warmth to my sound and made it cohesive and “acoustic” so that it blended seamlessly with the two actual acoustic instruments on the recording.

I use Mogami and Tara labs cables, and La Bella stainless steel and Fodera nickel strings.”

Well, there you have it! “Trinity” is a true treat of musical wonder. I am in awe of this beautiful, complex music, much of witch dates well before my time. By the same token, I am motivated to continue to listen closely to what the world has to offer as I have obviously just scratched the surface of this gem of humanities creation.

I would like to thank Vik Momjian and his fellow musicians for sharing their music with us all and especially to Vik for shedding some light on all the details behind this masterpiece.

String Harmonies {trinity} with Bassist Vik MomjianIf you enjoy World Music, then “Trinity” is a must listen for you!

String Harmonies {trinity} with Bassist Vik Momjian available at Amazon.com in MP3

 

And visit Bassist Vik Momjian online at:

www.viksbassplace.com
www.stringharmonies.com
www.facebook.com/StringHarmonies

 

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Gary Usdagar

    February 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Thanks for the great write up Raul, great to get a peak into this completely “foreign” but beautiful and rich musical tradition !

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