Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Stephen Blum

Subject Categories

Folklore | Music


armenian; Armenian composers; ethnography; opera; poetry; songs


The poem Anush by the Armenian poet Hovhannes Tumanian (1869-1923) is rooted in traditional Armenian music. Tumanian's poem reflects a number of manifestations thereof: (1) It borrows in its style from Armenian lyrical songs (such as lalik and khagh), from the parerg style (the traditional dance-song), and from the voghb style (laments such as funeral laments, bayati, and tragic odes). (2) Ashug style of storytelling/singing as a main form of conveying the storyline and emotions of protagonists are present. (3) Dancing and music making during Armenian traditional rituals -- in particular, the Hambarsum celebration (Feast of Christ's Ascension), the winter village wedding, and the kokh (wrestling dance) -- are in the poem inseparable from the protagonists' fate. (4) Songs incorporated into the poem serve as personifications of characters and their fate. (5) The poet uses the folk music idioms such as a presence of natural phenomena to tell the story and emotions. The three dominant interconnected components of nature -- mountains, flowers and bodies of water -- create a psychological background and all songs in the poem are connected with them emulating every mood, emotion and physical attribute of the people, as there is no direct description of their feelings or appearances. Such transference and humanization of nature, combined with musical references (dancing mountains, crying-lamenting clouds, springs lamenting "as nymphs", the river singing the hymns) are used as vehicles for telling/singing the story.

Tigranian conceived his opera Anush in 1908 and completed its first version in 1912. The libretto was written by the composer and he almost entirely preserved the 1903 version of the poem in it. The opera by Tigranian shows a close reading of the poem by the composer as the poem's "songs" come alive with traditional Armenian intonations.

Komitas started to work on his Anush in 1904 and only some portions of the score have been preserved. For the parts where Tumanian included traditional songs or rituals in the poem, Komitas used the traditional Armenian songs and composed his own melodies for sections pertaining to the "telling" parts. This musical approach closely matched Tumanian's poetic language.