Songs From a World Apart

Lévon Minassian and Armand Amar

" The deepened sense of melancholy is counterbalanced by an undoubtedly amiable feeling, taking you on a wonderful spiritual journey in a timeless space. "

Written by Joep de Bruijn - Review of the regular release

Armand Amar has made an excellent career in writing original music to dances, films, series and adapting folk and world music. The French-Israeli composer often employs the quality of the French-Armenian duduk player Lévon Minassian, once a student of the great Djivan Gasparyan. All three individuals have excelled particularly in music for the duduk, but beyond their impressive contributions there is much more beauty found in folk and world music from Armenia and surrounding areas.

In 1998, Long Distance released the album Lévon Minassian and Friends – The Doudouk - Beyond Borders. It was the first collaboration between Minassian and Armand Amar, who composed and arranged traditional folk music. Since then, they have joined forces on many exceptional scores. Songs From a World Apart is their second Long Distance album in the series, more recently followed by the excellent third called Sources. For Songs From a World Apart Amar and Minassian have created a strong mixture of arranged folks songs, actual film music tracks and tracks that bear a resemblance to other scores written by Amar.

While some have found admirable ways of using the duduk in film music, the instrument has a gained a far more negative contingent in this field. I would estimate for the larger part the instrument has become an undeserved cliché in films with any kind of Arabic or African connection, which is sadly so far removed from the truly deepened emotional and spiritual sense the instrument can convey.

The album features two cues from Armand Amar's score to Bab'Aziz, possibly the greatest achievements in both their careers. The first, (Ar intch lav er), is of plaintive and ethereal beauty, and its melody for duduk lend from a traditional piece; the perfect showcase of the exceptional manner in which Amar treats his source material. The dramatic, melancholic core comprises a simple, but extremely moving and memorable theme written for the duduk, supported by the strings of the Bulgarian orchestra, lute/oud, cello and kamanche. In the middle of the cue, the melody is 'interrupted' as the strings, oud and lute provide some reflective breathing space, only to return to the full capacity of the joined efforts of strings and the duduk melody. Similar treatment of traditional music with both traditional and western elements can be heard in the rest of the album. The release of the full score also features two shorter renditions of the theme.

Those familiar with the film music of Armand Amar will most likely be aware he has often revisited cues written in the past and implemented them slightly or fully in other scoring projects, and yet this has never been used in another film. It is highly comfortable that some things can be preserved and limited. Being familiar with so much other scores that make use of the duduk and countless performances in traditional music, this is by far the most noteworthy cue ever created for and with the duduk. I would even go as far as to calling this the most personal piece of music I know, that is how much I can relate to it.

Equally beautiful is the second cue from Bab' Aziz called Nusrat's allap, which includes a great performance by singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I can only praise how well the transcendental quality of the track works as a closure to the album. This track is, again, identical to the presentation for the film.

The third piece of film music on the album that is as exceptiinonal, and the only one to provide something extra, is the track Amen hayr sourp, also part of the score to a film called Indigènes, orgiinally named Monte Cassino. Unlike the two cues from Bab' Aziz this is different from the film version, almost diffusing the remembrances of this take entirely. The film revolves around the participation of Algerians in the French army during the Second World War. Surprisingly, apart from a few moments of Arabic music sung by Khaled, the score omits any of this flavor in the rest of the score. The version on the album plays like the cue from the film, but extends the emotional content by adding the duduk and Arabic instruments. It gives the impressively solemn and western classical cue a sound that is different, less restrained and more lyrical in emotion. Like Ar intch lav er, it feels like a poetic, beautiful work of art, imminent and unforgettable.

There is great tranquility found throughout the rest of the album, and it is mostly similar in strong and profound emotion, sound and imminent performances. The track Yes tchem ouzoum dzeranl shows that Minassian is more than an experienced duduk player, and like the great Djivan Gasparyan, also a great vocalist. Perhaps the most 'deviating' track is Nare nare, a track that places a duduk melody on top of a percussion based rhythm. As a listener, some experience and appreciation for folk and world music may be of some use, but by infusing some 'western' elements and the great treatment of the source material, Amar established an album for a wider appeal.

Songs From a World Apart ranks among my most played albums and regard it as a masterpiece of vital importance. The deepened sense of melancholy is counterbalanced by an undoubtedly amiable feeling, taking you on a wonderful spiritual journey in a timeless space. It's a true declaration of love for the duduk and undeniable as an example of some of the strongest alliances with the instrument.

For further recommendations, it is worth exploring the discography of Djivan Gasparyan and all Amar Amar/ Lévon Minassian collaborations, particularly their third album Sources. Their takes on Vladilen Balyan' music in Gouses Linem and the traditional lullaby Oror are prime examples of creating perfection.

1. Hovern ' engan (Les vents sont tombés, The winds have dropped ) 5:08
2. Tchinares (Tu es elancée, You are slender) 5:47
3. Ar intch lav er (Qu'est-ce qu'Il faisait bon ivre, Those were good times...) 6:16
4. Nare nare 5:22
5. Im ayrogh veuchtitz (Pourvu que ma mère... Oh that my mother) 7:10
6. Yes tchem ouzoum dzeranl (Je ne veux pas vieillir, I don''t want to grow old) 5:38
7. Amen hayr sourp (Cantique de la trinité, Canticle of the trinity) 7:39
8. Sareri hovin mernem (Je meurs au vent de mes plaines, I am dying in the wind of my plains) 2:35
9. Araksi artassouken (Les larmes du fleuve Arax, The tears of the river Arax) 5:22
10. Nusrat's allap 4:17
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 16 votes - average 3.88/5)

Released by

Long Distance (regular release 2005)