Arshak Sirunyan
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Arshak Sirunyan

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | SELF

Washington, D.C., Washington, D.C., United States | SELF
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"FROM CLASSICAL MUSIC TO JAZZ!"

Artists from all over the country want to work with him. This man is extraordinarily versatile, as much at home with Tchaikovsky¡¯s Nutcracker Suite to his rendition of Thelonius Monk¡¯s ¡°Blue Monk¡±. Although his roots were firmly planted in the world of classical music, his heart and mind became captivated by the music of jazz masters such as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, John Coltrane, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock etc. In 2002, Arshak decided to emigrate to the United States to pursue his new passion ¡°Jazz¡±.

Thank you so much, Arshak for taking time to answer these questions in the midst of recording a new CD and all. I sincerely appreciate your generosity.

No. 1) What is music to and for you?

I¡¯ve heard this question innumerable times and every time I think about it I come up with a different statement based on ¡°where I am¡±. I still don¡¯t have a settled answer, only thing I know is ¨C it¡¯s my life, my happiness and my food. So for me music is literally EVERYTHING.

The only ¡°non-scientific¡± explanation I can give to -what is music- is: it¡¯s an amorphous space with an eternal stream of aesthetic energy which drives our emotions into extreme degree of felicity and happiness. It reflects our feelings which of course can be sorrowful too.

Many of us comprehend the meaning of it by playing a little or major part in it. And when you see you create pleasure, merriment and a smile with a touch of a finger on the key or a draft of a note one a paper it makes you experience all of those. And then you understand that you don¡¯t actually need to elaborate everything, there are plenty who do that full-time. Critics? Not necessarily professional,.. we need them full-time too.

I always take advantage of what I¡¯ve been given to naturally translate and to represent the true meaning of music to my listener by just passing it to them from my very heart and soul. And if there is a question ¡°how?¡± I leave the answer on the shoulders of my music because sometimes I don¡¯t even know it myself.

No. 2) What inspires you?

My last composition I wrote is called ¡°11:11¡å. I¡¯ve been constantly seeing this number on my watch twice a day for past several years and every single time I would get curious ¡°why does this surprise me so much?¡±. It may sound silly but last time I saw it again something told me to sit in front of the instrument and write a piece by name ¡°11:11¡å. After recording it I stopped seeing it.

Or a similar story, when my eye was twitching for few days giving me a challenging task to envisage the rhythm of the twitch in the first piece of my trio album by name ¡°Twitching Eye¡± which will be released soon.

I called the album ¡°Journal¡± because all the compositions are a consequence of an event that happened to me this past year. Hence, even a little detail in my life can be a source of an inspiration. I read books, watch movies, play computer games and of course listen to tremendous amount of music every day. I¡¯ve learned to grasp the call of the inspiration by opening my eyes and ears everywhere. People, common surroundings, occasions, relationships, love ¡­ everything can facilitate to be inspired, you just have to know how to make a use of it.

But mostly it¡¯s ¡°his majesty¡±, the music by it¡¯s own, doesn¡¯t matter if it¡¯s jazz, classical, rock etc., it penetrates massive amount of information in your conscious and mainly your subconscious brain converting you into it¡¯s ¡°time shuttle¡± to the future. When there is a spark of a creative idea you might sometimes not even release that it¡¯s influenced by ¡°Prelude from Bach¡¯s Cello Suite No. 1 in G major, BWV 1007¡å for example.

No. 3) When you are playing, creating, where does it take you? Where does your mind travel?

Depending on the emotional state you are in, whether you play an already written piece or create your own, your mind drifts away from the reality. Where? I honestly don¡¯t know. Drowning into your heart? Out traveling in ¡°parallel universe¡± or entering into ¡°Nirvana¡± state? ¡­ One thing is definite to me: it feels overwhelmingly good, your heart keeps changing it¡¯s tempo, you sweat, you get excited, all of a sudden it shivers down your spine, you smile, you feel sadness and all of these are not always controlled by YOU.

It¡¯s amazingly interesting that with a combination of two notes you can convert the silence into: a sad or a happy memory, a smile with tears, someone who you really miss, a place where you would be right that moment and so on.. And when you¡¯re done .. the world is ¡°yours¡± and you feel incredibly powerful.

No. 4) Do you feel music, visual art and health are related and if so, in what way?

There is a huge coherence between art and your physically/mental condition. I¡¯ve realized it many times over and over again. When you keep yourself healthy, go to the gym, exercise and eat healthy you build a strong stamina and endurance which are crucial to being productive. Consequently, the more you study, practice and work, the easier your journey will become towards being successful. Most artists avoid this factor not realizing the immense affect on their subconscious. We, musicians, are spoiled and we often forget that however music awards us comes from however we deal with ourselves.

No. 5) How do you feel when you are playing, creating?

Genres distinguish themselves not only by their style and character, they also have different execution methods. I¡¯m not talking about the technique and the performance artistry, it can¡¯t be taught. It¡¯s inside you, it¡¯s what defines your personality. I¡¯ll bring an example on jazz vs. classical. The performance of those two differentiate from each other by their ¡°performing psychology¡±.

In classical music you learn, practice and play a composition over and over again and eventually it becomes your ¡°muscle memory¡±. On the stage your fingers and subconscious do most of the work. Your main task is to be tranquil, bring all your emotions out and execute in a spiritual level, in other words to meditate.

When it comes to playing jazz ¡­ it¡¯s entirely different story. You¡¯ve got to be alert and vigilant since almost everything you play is improvisation. It feels like being on the edge and there is no turning back. You even change your posture without realizing that you arch your back , tense your wrists and do everything against what you¡¯ve been thought classically in the school.

No. 6) Do you identify with your music and on what level?

Since last year I had written only classical/contemporary pieces. Maybe few small jazz sketches in the past but mostly I would arrange or re-harmonize jazz standards for a particular band set or just for my self. My current ¡°trio¡± project is original. I¡¯ve gotten a few positive feedbacks from those who got a chance to check them out before the release. So I¡¯m going to let the album free in a month or so and hope to see the results in terms of being identified.

No. 7) When do you do your best work?

Preferably in the morning with a cup of coffee and a fresh, cleared mind from the previous day. Although sometimes the day brings unusual excitements and adventures which can inspire me to play until late night, sometimes even until 3:00 am. And living in an apartment building you gotta have headphones !! Otherwise you¡¯ll see all your neighbours in their sleepwear standing at your front door. I¡¯ve seen them all

No. Does music help you connect with your ¡°higher¡± self?

I believe in ¡°dimensions¡±. I think we will explore time travel too someday. And I think there is invisible energy around us and it absorbs all the negative and positive thoughts and emotions projecting from us. I don¡¯t want to get too scientific and ¡°non-sense¡± but every perception is the effect of a though, either it turns to an action or becomes positive or negative energy. We transfer and acquire that energy all the time.

When I play, I know I¡¯m ¡°somewhere¡± because I feel that energy down in my spine. There is no definite clarification of the process when I¡¯m ¡®there¡±, it¡¯s beyond my understanding. So I want to leave it like that and not try to analyse too much. At the end, to me the relationship between me and my ¡°Higher Self¡± in music is the translation of all my unspoken thoughts and the hidden feelings by the music itself.

Arshak, this interview has been most enlightening, and I thank you sincerely for sharing so much with us. Until the next time, my friend, be blessed!
- Michele Andree


Discography

2002 - Armenian Folk Melodies
2008 - Double Sharp - With a Song in My Heart
2009 - Tony Bunn and Friends - Small World
2010 - Journal

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Bio

When asked about Arshak Sirunyan, Gabrielle Goodman (award winning songwriter, vocalist and Berklee College of Music educator) remarked without hesitation, “There are piano players and then there’s Arshak; he’s on a whole `nother level”.

Arshak Sirunyan was born on September 20, 1981, in the city of Yerevan, Armenia. By the age of seven, his natural musical talent had already come to the attention of Sergey Kechek, Director of the A. Spendiarov School of Music; one of the leading musical academies in Armenia. Studying under unparalleled teacher and a music mentor Arkuhi Harutyunyan, Arshak continued his study of classical piano styles for the next 10 years, performing solo concerts and going so far as to receive the third place award at the 1994 Armenian National J. S. Bach Concerto Competition. Later, he attended and graduated from Komitas State Conservatory, where he concentrated on Composition and Piano Performance under the tutelage of Stephan Rostomyan and Georgy Kasabyan. In the fallowing years Arshak has composed classical and contemporary compositions for vocal, piano, clarinet, string quartet and symphonic orchestra. In 2002, the Armenian Komitas String Quartet performed a work composed by Arshak Sirunyan that was dedicated to the victims of the earthquake that struck Armenia fourteen years earlier.

In the year of 2002, after releasing his first album “Armenian Folk Melodies” with his friend Artur Yeghiazaryan Arshak was granted the great opportunity to come to the United States of America. In 2008 Arshak found and produced a band by name "Double Sharp" with his two childhood friends Levon Mikayelyan and Nune Vartanyan. Which also includes two veterans of america jazz scene Tony Bunn and Wes Crawford. This gave a birth to the album "With a Song in My Heart". The same year he began working on his trio album "Journal" [Released in 2010] and Tony's project "Small World" [Released in 2009]which also involves extraordinary drummer Dennis Chambers.In May 2010, "Twitching Eye" from the album "Journal" receives "Honorable Mention" from the 2010 International Songwriting Competition.