As soon as I heard the first song from this album, I immediately said to myself it is surely ‘that fellow’ (Djivan Gasparian) who plays the duduk (wild flute) so masterfully in the soundtrack of ‘Gladiator’. I have listened to this soundtrack literally hundreds of times, the powerful music of that living genius Hans Zimmer. I heard the same poignant notes of suffering and courage. I immediately bought the album with total confidence, unheard.
Well, in fact it was not Djivan Gasparian I heard but Lévon Minassian. But it is all the same, for I discovered that Minassian was a student of Gasparian, and I find that the student has become the master.
Words are inadequate for describing any music, since music has a direct electrical contact to the soul, whereas words are filtered and interpreted by the mind. Yet I will try to describe the indescribable.
Hearing each song for the first time, our bruised and blistered soul seems to recognise an old refrain and flows readily, willingly along with the music as if it has always known it. The music takes up its rightful place in our memory, as if this place were reserved for it.
Minassian plays with utter mastery, the duduk speaks with a voice as subtle and expressive as any violin, any human.
Armand Amar, the composer and arranger of these traditional Armenian folk songs, is to be highly praised. Often the voice of the duduk is placed in high relief on the background of a dark, ominous, ambient base but the often-expected digression into trendy ‘techno’ rhythms never comes. The music remains firmly rooted in the timeless and the authentic.
The music speaks of suffering certainly, but it is the beautiful suffering of the brave heart. As we listen effortlessly, feeling our suffering being expressed fully and beautifully, we find strength in the music as we realise that our suffering is not unique but is the suffering of our condition, the suffering of every man, past and present and future. We realise that it is simply ‘Suffering’. And suffering is not all bad: for what is suffering except a manifestation of love? Love lost, love that cannot be, love sought and not found, loved-ones missed? There can be no suffering without love.
This is all understood wordlessly through the music of this masterpiece, for it is nothing less. It is a sure, wide-open gateway to the Spirit, in the world apart.