HomeCultureMusical Instruments of the Armenian Highlands
February 24, 2018
Musical Instruments of the Armenian Highlands
Armenian people have created a multitude of musical instruments. A variety of tambourines and drums have been widely used throughout historical Armenia. The very first accounts of Armenian musical instruments come from ca. 3rd millennium BC.
According to ancient manuscripts, several types of timpani have been used in rites dedicated to ancient Armenian goddess Anahit. The fragments of those instruments that date back to approximately 800 BC were found at the Karmir Blur archaeological site 30 kilometers north of Yerevan.
Multiple types of zurnas have been widely used by the peoples of Middle East, the Caucasus, and China. In one of the oldest places of residence of the human kind, Mingechavir, 4 examples of zurna made from deer horns have been discovered. These particular instruments are estimated to have been made 3 thousand years ago. Zurna has been one of the primary musical instruments in the Armenian culture.
Another popular instrument is the duduk, an ancient double-reed woodwind instrument commonly made from apricot wood. Duduk is indigenous to Armenia. Different types of duduk have been and are popular among the peoples of the Caucasus, Near East, and the Balkan Peninsula. In 2005, duduk along with its music was included in the UNESCO Masterpiece of the Intangible Heritage of Humanity list.
In Armenia, duduk is also called “tsiranapogh”, literally meaning “apricot pipe” in Armenian. 5th-century Armenian historian Movses Khorenatsi mentioned duduk as tsiranapogh in his works.
Duduk and its music are inseparable from the culture and identity of Armenians. Over the centuries of their history, musical instruments have been accompanying every significant social event, including national festivals, weddings, and funerals.
According to ethnomusicologist Dr. Jonathan McCollum, duduk is depicted on a large number of medieval Armenian manuscripts as a symbol of the Armenian national identity. As McCollum noted, the key feature of duduk is its ability to express the dialectics and tone of the Armenian language.
Dhol (more commonly known as Caucasian Dhol) is a type of double-headed drums. The stretched membranes of dhols have different thicknesses. The body of dhol is usually made from metal, though both the membranes and the body can be made from various materials.
The choice of the materials depends on the type of dhol. Ancient Armenians used ceramics, walnut, and copper. Despite its heaviness, walnut has been a primary material in dhols because of the wood’s sound features. Membranes can be on either one or both sides of dhols. If a dhol has two membranes, they are usually tied with strings. The tightness of the installation, material, as well as the membrane’s thickness heavily affect the sound.
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