For over a decade, the AGBU Sayat Nova International Composition Competition has been inviting musicians of all heritages to be inspired by the grand tradition of Armenian arts. Winners have been named from all over the world, from Hong Kong to Mexico, Syria to France.

The winning compositions of 2018 are Aregnaz Martirosyan’s “Inqnutyun” [Identity] in first place, Bardy Minassian’s “Loure da Loure” [News, It’s News] in second place, and James Maunders’ “Khosk Im Vordun” [A Word to My Son] in third place.

We sat down with Aregnaz and Bardy to talk about their musical journey.

What is the impact of competitions for students?

Aregnaz: For me, I like the experience of participating to a music competition. First, because you get to work with foreign organizers and their teams, and second, because you are forced to write something in a certain format or with specified instruments. Some competitions give you a strict set of instruments that has to be used, and it is up to the applicant to explore all those new sounds and experiment with new music colors. Based on those experimentations, even if I do not win, I develop a new music mindset in my brain.

If I chose a string quartet the final score could have been much different, but with the instrument group of the Sayat Nova Competition, it was my responsibility to think deeper and understand what colors can be combined and what would that result.

So, we can say that the rules of the competition create boundaries to trigger your creativity?

Aregnaz: I have tried to find my freedom in those limits. You should always be on the edge of the rules and be crazy enough to cross that edge when necessary to put your own signature in your composition.

How the poetry of Silva Kaputikian affected your score?

Aregnaz: For me it was hard to work with pre-written lyrics. On the one hand, it was hard to find something from Silva Kaputikian that could have been applicable for composition.  On the other hand the words had to be pronounced instead of singing.

What was the main challenge for this competition?

Bardy: My challenge was to find information on some particular instruments, such as the extended techniques of Oboe. Even though, I was able to find some of those aspects from Symbolium’s Clarinet Instrument Package, the availability of Oboe and Voice instrument packages could have been very useful for the creation of the score.

 We were supposed to use Armenian folk instruments in our scores, but we found no written information on Zurna instruments. We end up by finding a Zurna professor who explained everything to us face to face. It is very hard to understand how those instruments work and how they are notated. There were no examples of notations and symbols for some instruments. We met experienced performers who told us that they play without notations, meaning that they play by ear.

How you achieved to mix folk instruments with western instruments?

Aregnaz: I tried to mix the national aspects along with the elements of western instruments. But since my composition is more like a story, I gave it a character and created a storyline. My goal was to combine the 4 instruments and create a well balanced sound.

Bardy: I want to add that there were so many other possible combinations of music instruments, but we technically do not have a lot of information on our hands to be able to use the potential of those instruments. The scarcity of the information of certain capabilities of instruments is a challenge for composers.

Aregnaz: I think that is the main value of Symbolium. The platform helps to use the potential of each instrument. Especially for composers with medium experience who want to use unfamiliar instruments. You must go through hundreds of pages to find applicable knowledge.

Bardy: In my case, I used Symbolium to find extended techniques and notations for woodwind instruments, taking the reference of the Clarinet instrument package.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Bardy: I imagine myself in America, because the music education in United States is different from the European education and post-soviet education. I always tell to myself that I would be already famous after 10 years from now 🙂

Aregnaz: Still studying in Europe, to be honest. But I will try myself in other music areas as well, such as film music, theater music. My goal is to focus on performances and concerts, so my compositions are performed in different countries. After that I will return to Armenia.Symbolium