Join us this evening for a presentation from visiting professor Dr. Sylvia Alajaji!
“Legibility and its Discontents: Reflections on the Cacophonies of the Armenian Diaspora”
This talk will serve as a meditation on what, in essence, is an epistemological question: what is Armenian music? It is a question whose ripples extend far: into the nature of Armenian identity itself and the ways Armenian subjectivity has been constructed across time and place. Central to this question is the work of the beloved Armenian composer and folklorist Komitas Vardapet (1869-1935). He is a figure who not only has come to represent the very possibility of an “Armenian music” but, through the ways he has been written about, memorialized, and made central to the Armenian musical imaginary, has come to represent the possibility of an Armenia made whole.
But what is the sound of this whole—its contours, textures, and limits? And what is the meaning of that sound for a diaspora marked by its multiplicities and its varied (dis)connections to the nation-state of Armenia? Through an engagement with the discourses surrounding the life and work of Komitas, this talk will reflect on the implications of his centrality to the Armenian musical imaginary and how, through this centrality, the Armenian diaspora is made to emerge as an entity—as a Diaspora—its cacophonies and incommensurabilities subsumed into a legible whole. In examining the implicit elisions, alignments, orientations, and histories that attend such articulations, it becomes apparent that Diaspora, with its promises of clarity, stability, and knowability, is a construction that both maintains and needs maintaining and one that finds its legibility in the expanse of the Western gaze.