Joseph Bohigian Releases Music on Armenian Experience of Exile

Joseph Bohigian. Photo by: Raffi Paul
Joseph Bohigian. Photo by: Raffi Paul

Joseph Bohigian. Photo by: Raffi Paul

FRESNO—Armenian-American composer and performer Joseph Bohigian has released a new composition titled “The Water Has Found its Crack” exploring the Armenian experience of exile as expressed through music. For this project, Bohigian moved to Yerevan in October 2019, where he worked as translator and did research at the Komitas Museum-Institute and taught a Laptop Orchestra Workshop at the Yerevan Conservatory.

The title of the piece comes from a Hrant Dink article about a French-Armenian woman who died while visiting the village of her youth in Turkey. When the question of where she should be buried arose, a man from the village responded “Let her be buried here…the water has found its crack.” Through this story of the Armenian longing for reunion with their indigenous land, Bohigian questions his place in the homeland, both musically and spiritually, and the evershifting internal and external identity boundaries in diaspora.

The idea of the water finding its crack is represented in the text of the composition, which comes from fragments of Armenian folk songs gathered by the composer from the works of Komitas. Bohigian weaves these text fragments, which reference water as metaphor for displacement and exile, into a new composite form. Musically, the composer reflects on the centrality of displacement in Armenian culture in a quasi-folk song which references the Armenian migrant song genre. The fluidity of dispersion manifests in lingering quarter tone glissandi which push at the boundaries of the tetrachord structure of Armenian music. Finally, Bohigian seeks a reunion of the Armenian musical experiences of his youth in Fresno, California and those of his time in Armenia through an abstraction of Armenian sacred chant.

The recording includes performances by sopranos Catherine Sandstet, Heidi Schneider, and Alina Tamborini, percussionist Rob Cosgrove, violinist Kate Dreyfuss, violist Sophia Sun, and cellist Tsung-Yu Tsai.

Joseph Bohigian is a composer and performer whose cross-cultural experience as an Armenian-American is a defining message in his music. His work explores the expression of exile, cultural reunification, and identity maintenance in diaspora. Joseph’s works have been heard at the Oregon Bach Festival, June in Buffalo, Walt Disney Concert Hall, New Music on the Point Festival, TENOR Conference (Melbourne), and Aram Khachaturian Museum Hall performed by the Mivos Quartet, Decibel New Music, Great Noise Ensemble, and Argus Quartet. He is also a founding member of Ensemble Decipher, a group dedicated to the performance of live electronic music.


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