Duration: 8 minutes
Commissioned by: Anastasia Christofakis for the Armenian Music Symposium to commemorate the centennial of Armenian Genocide.
Performed by: Anastasia Christofakis (clarinet), Patrick Lin (violin), JiaRong Gon (Violin), Peter Dutilly (viola), and Justin Page (cello) at Florida State University on April 5, 2015.
Andooni means “without a home” and embodies the history and sentiment of the Armenian people after the genocide in 1915. Andooni was originally composed by an Armenian monk named Komitas (baptized Soghomon Soghomonian) in reference to the centuries of war surrounding Armenia’s kingdom since the year 301. The Persians, Malemutes of Egypt, and Ottomans among others fought over Armenia’s land, dislocating Armenians from their historic homeland. Komtas’s song Andooni is now more closely associated with the Armenian Genocide of 1915.
On April 24, 1915 the Turkish Empire captured Komitas along with 250 other Armenian intellectuals living in Constantinople and exiled them on a seven-week journey to Changr. This marked the beginning of the Armenian Genocide where an estimated 1-1.5 million people were killed. The genocide was carried out in two stages. The first included the murder of able-bodied men through mass execution and forced labor while the second included the deportation of women, children, elderly, and sick on death marches to the Syrian desert. These marches were escorted by the military and left the people deprived of food and water while being subjected to robbery, rape, and massacre.
Komitas was horrified by what he had witnessed along the journey and suffered a severe mental decline after this experience. After several weeks in Changr a Turkish intellectual named Mehmet Emem returned Komitas to his homeland because he had great respect for him. Komitas was unrecognizable to his friends once he returned home and hardly spoke to anyone. He was eventually transported under false pretenses to Paris to be institutionalized and remained here the last twenty years of his life. He died on October 22, 1935 from a foot infection due to the unsanitary conditions of the institution. Komitas never composed another note of music after 1915.
This piece is written with the inspiration of Komitas’s original melody for Andooni. The work features microtones to create an aural perception of a changing pitch. Despite the fact that an open D string in the viola and octave D in the clarinet remain unchanged, the microtones performed in the other instruments give the auditory sensation that these constants are moving sharp and flat. This unsettling effect creates a feeling of instability, which I hope represents the central themes expressed in Andooni.