Weekly Music Showcase #8: The Cave of Rebirth
November 5th, 2019
This week I want to take a look at one of my favorite composers (/musician/piano prodigy/innovator), Tigran Hamasyan.
I remember hearing about Tigran a couple years back as a freshman in college. He was on the fringes of my perception, but nothing had motivated me enough to do a deep dive into him. I think that is how it is for a lot of people with various artists or genres before they get really into them; sometimes it takes a spark to flip the switch in perception that allows you to fall in love with a new artist or song. For me that spark came in the form of Tigran’s song, The Cave of Rebirth, off of his 2017 album Ancient Observer.
I remember driving in the car coming home from a gig, when the album I had been playing on Spotify through my car’s speakers began to autoplay new music. I remember first hearing the dancing, playful quality of the piano opening, combined with an ethereal and crystal clear vocal, and being sort of entranced by it while driving at dusk. As the song progressed, the playful texture began to coalesce into more of a beat as the song began to pick up momentum, taking on a darker and almost sinister tone.
And then about halfway through that tone shifts. The beat is still there, but there is this uplifting and hauntingly beautiful melody carried by the vocal and top of the piano arpeggiation. I remember at that moment, in my car, that switch flipped on for me. I looked down for a second to check the artist (remember to practice safe driving people), and Tigran’s stoic portrait looked back at me from the cover of Ancient Observer, and I knew this was going to be really special music to me.
After that moment, that spark, I remember diving into everything else he ever did. I started with all of Ancient Observer, working my way back to Mockroot and Shadow Theater, then to his other projects. Everything about his music seemed to excite me; it was rhythmically and harmonically complex, it was performed incredibly, but there was so much emotion behind his music, whether that was the fire and free-rhythmic (or rather atypical rhythmic) spirit you might hear in songs of his like Court Jester or The Grid, or the snowy gentleness of solo piano pieces like Lilac. Not to mention, his combination of traditional Armenian folk scales and modes with incredible technique (could honestly write a whole other post about his ability to fuse different influences, culturally and technically, into his playing and composition, but will maybe have to save that for another time).
Tigran’s music continues to inspire me every time I listen to it. He is a composer I don’t think I could ever tire of, and whenever I put on an album of his or a favorite song (like The Cave of Rebirth), I feel nearly identical to how I remember I felt when I first listened to it. Maybe that speaks to the link between music and memory (or really memory and emotion with music as the bridge between), but I feel that Tigran’s music has that special quality to it where there is always something new to discover, something new and exciting to find and hold, something to make you think, something to make you dance, or something to make you feel. Ever since first hearing this song, I’ve tried to crack what the title, The Cave of Rebirth, means to me. And I think to me, it is exactly that, a place of infinite discovery, constant birth and rebirth of new ideas, the abstract place where all creativity and creation comes from.
Thanks for reading this week. I’m really enjoying these deeper and more personal dives into the music that I love, and I feel so great that I’m able to talk openly and honestly about the music that excites me. Everything I have put on this showcase so far has been music that I genuinely love and have passion for, and it will continue to be that way. I know for me, being honest about what I love doesn’t come easy to me, which is why I strive to do it as much as I can. I think my greatest hope with continuing to do this (and other writing/music in general), is that I will inspire someone else to be honest about what they love as well.
See ya next week!
Some of my favorite Tigran Hamasyan music:
Ancient Observer (song)
The Roads That Bring Me Closer to You
The Grid and Out of the Grid (one of the inspirations for a pair of songs off of my album, Life Story, entitled At the Center and Of It All)
The Court Jester
Rays of Light
Vardavar (live with Charles Altura)
The Cave of Rebirth (live at Berklee with Ben Wendel and Nate Wood)