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ARCHEOLOGY OF MADNESS: Komitas, Portrait of an Armenian Icon

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by Rita Soulahian Kuyumjian

The most popular Armenian classical composer of his time, Komitas (1869–1935) is still on every concert program of classical Armenian music. Komitas’s creative work was cut short by the Armenian Genocide of 1915–16. After surviving a death camp, Komitas developed a severe form of Post traumatic Stress Disorder, and spent twenty years in virtual silence in mental asylums.

In this thoughtful biography, Rita Kuyumjian examines three seldom-addressed aspects of the composer’s life: his relationship with an Armenian singer, Margaret Babayan; his mental illness; and his relationship with the Armenian church.

In this gently flowing narrative, based on extensive archival research, the fragile sanity of Komitas’s mutilated soul comes to life, engulfing the reader in the tempest that once roared in the great Armenian composer’s afflicted mind.

Beside the elucidation of the complex Post traumatic Stress Disorder, the author’s meticulous exploration of Komitas’s private life, love, fears, and demons paints a picture of a delicate creativity trapped in a painful solitude.

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