"Music that touches one's innermost soul." Two documentaries report on the Jaw Harp Festival 2006 in Amsterdam and the Duduk in Armenia

DAN MOI Clemens Voigt & Sven Otto GbR
2015-04-28 00:00:00

A Duduk Player's Desk


There are two musical documentary films from the film production company Blende39 (Eva Luise Volkmann and Peter Bräunig), located in Magdeburg, Germany. "Mundton" (mouth sound), a portrait of the international jaw harp scene, was filmed as early as 2006 during the Fifth International Jew's Harp Festival in Amsterdam. Now, at the suggestion of the jaw harp and Duduk player Sören Birke, a second film is shot. "Bitter Apricot" is currently still in production. This musical documentary tells the story of the relationship between the world-famous Duduk player Djivan Gasparyan and his grandson, who would like to carry Duduk playing into the next generation. Eva-Luise Volkmann of Blende39 spoke to Helen Hahmann about the motives and the attraction of getting to know these two musical instruments by making two documentary films.

Eva Luise Volkmann and Peter Bräunig studied journalism and media management, as the filmmaker and jaw harp player Gerd Conradt held a seminar under the heading "Video Poetry" offered at the Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences. When, in 2006, they were offered the opportunity of travelling with Condradt to the International Jew's Harp Festival in Amsterdam to make a documentary about the jaw harp, Volkmann and Bräunig, together with Grit Bemann und Jessica Preuß, hired a small bus and set off. "What impressed us most when we arrived at the festival was that there were people there from all over the world, from a wide variety of cultures, who all played this little instrument which had such a tremendous effect. That the instrument had such a profound effect was something we had not previously been aware of. We did not know that there were so many forms and types of jaw harps in the world. That was such a remote world which had suddenly been transferred to this European context. This method of playing had something primordial about it, something that touched one's innermost soul", recalls Eva-Luise Volkmann, referring to the film shoot in Amsterdam. The film aims to document the current jaw harp scene and the emotions associated with it.

In "Mundton" many of today's influential protagonists, Tran Quang Hai, Albin Paulus, Anton Bruhin, Sylvain Trias, Luca Recupero, have their say. What is really fascinating is the fact that so many people are portrayed in the film. Sven "Roxi" Otto and Clemens Voigt, the founders of DAN MOI, can also be seen in the film, as can musician Bangalore Rajashekar from the North of India on the Morchang and Steev Kindwald from the USA. According to Eva-Luise Volkmann "The film is very well known in the jaw harp world, although it has still not been shown at festivals," In the meantime "Mundton" can also be viewed online at Vimeo.

The impressive story of the Duduk virtuoso Djivan Gasparyan and his grandson Djivan Gasparyan Jr. is told in "Bitter Apricot". The film is scheduled for completion in 2016. It is the story of the young Gasparyan, who, in his mid thirties, returned from Los Angeles to Armenia to learn the Duduk from his grandfather. Gasparyan Sr. extends his musical legacy through his grandson. The Blende39 team has been filming this process since 2011. "The story of the film is about Djivan Sr., it is an almost fairy tale story. Djivan Sr. first heard the Duduk played in a silent movie theater in Yerevan when he was six years old. At that time, black and white movies were accompanied by Duduk ensemble music. He was so fascinated and moved by this instrument that he decided to learn the instrument. After the film, he went up to one of the men in the ensemble, Margar Margaryan, and asked him if we could give him a present of an instrument. He actually got an instrument and then began to practice. Margar Margaryan later became Gasparyan's teacher."

Eva-Luise Volkmann tells this story knowing the amazing route Gasparyan has taken. "When he was first invited to a music contest in Moscow in the early 1950s, nobody had any idea what exactly a Duduk was. He won this competition, beating 5,000 other entrants, and received the first prize from Stalin: a gold watch. Later, he participated in many more competitions in the Soviet Union, but hardly anyone in the West knew of him ." Only when Brian Eno became aware of the Duduk and Gasparyan in 1989, the passage to the West opened up for the instrument and for its performers. His first album "I will not be sad in this world" appeared on the all Saints Records label in the United Kingdom.

Convinced that knowledge of the melodies and playing techniques of the Duduk should live on, Gasparyan's grandson has now started to learn to play the Duduk himself. Gasparyan Jr. says, "the sound is your voice. I think that if I could not articulate with my voice, then I could express myself using my instrument, the Duduk. The playing of Duduk comes from inside of you, everything counts: how sayest thou, thy life, thy thoughts. All this plays an important role." Djivan Gasparyan Sr. was born in 1928 and today he still performs in concerts with his grandson. "The deepest concern of Djivan Sr., and that of Djivan Jr. also, is to take this music to the world," observed Eva-Luise Vokmann during shooting. Also on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the genocide on the Armenians in April 2015, she and Peter Bräunig, together with Sören Birke and Rosanna Karapetyan traveled to Yerevan to film and document a concert given by the two Duduk players and thereby to document the social significance of Duduk music for many Armenians worldwide.

Here is the first teaser of "Bitter Apricot" to be seen on Vimeo.


And here is the Facebook-Page of BITTER APRICOT

And here you can read further about Blende39 and their projects:


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