Gasparyan playing the ancient duduk (credit: Michael Brook Breakdown)
In 1998, Djivan Gasparyan and Michael Brook collaborated on an amazing album of Armenian duduk music, Black Rock. For those who’ve been sleeping under rocks for a decade or so, Michael Brook is the virtuoso guitarist and record producer who earlier created two phenomenal albums with Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.
In these collaborations, Brook brings an ur-contemporary musical sensibility while at the same time extending extraordinary courtesy to the musical genre and tradition from which his co-collaborator springs. In the case of Gasparyan, Brook brings forward the throaty, mournful sound of the duduk, while adding a contemporary musical layer of mystery and etheriality to the audio mix. Here is what Evan Carter has to say about Black Rock at Allmusic.com:
This [Gasparyan-Brook] partnership produces a record of dazzling eclecticism and uncommon soulfulness. Gasparyan’s duduk, an ancient instrument similar to the oboe, has an extraordinary range of expression: It exudes a heart-rending plangency on the mournful “Fallen Star,” seductive sensuality on “Forbidden Love,” and languid serenity on “Together Forever.” Brook’s arrangements — consisting primarily of keyboards, light drums, and evocative ambient electric guitars — bring a contemporary edge to the ancient mystery and emotiveness that characterize Gasparyan’s work.
Fallen Star (here it) begins with a contemplative duduk line backed by all manner of otherworldly sounds. A discreet drum track adds a hint of rhythmic crispness to the song without overpowering it. Finally, Brook’s guitar enters the fray driving the melody forward energetically. Listening to this song and the entire album gives you the sense that you are hearing the sounds of the cosmos right in the comfort of your own home! Miraculous.
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