Composer, musicologist, academic and Director of the Encuentros Group, Alicia Terzian studied in the National Conservatory of Music of Buenos Ayres. She studied Armenian music at the Monastery of San Lazaro (Venice) with Dr. Leoncio Dayan. She offered lectures on this subject at the University of Yale (USA), at the Great Hall of UNESCO in Paris, at several universities in the United States and throughout Europe. Several of her works were awarded by the City Government of Buenos Ayres and the National Fund for the Arts. In 1982 she won the National Music Grand Prize.
She participated in various commissions on composition: Gulbenkian Foundation of Lisbon, Ices Festival of London, Festival of Zagreb, Aspekte Festival Salzburg, Symphonic Orchestra of Grenoble, Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires, Banco Mayo Foundation, Radio France, etc. Terzian was the President of the Argentine Council of Music (CAMU), Vice President of the International Council of Music (CIM, 1990-93), General Secretary of the Music Council of the Three Americas (COMTA). Among her titles: “Member of the Academy of Fine Arts” of Chile; “Member of the Music Academy” of Valencia, Spain; Knight of the Order of the Academic Palms by decree of the Government of France; Medal “Saint Sahak and Saint Mesrop”, as well as the “Papal Bull” granted by the Catholicos of All Armenians Vazgen the First, the “Piccaso-Miro Medal”, granted by the General Secretary of UNESCO for her support and dissemination of Latin American composers. In 2013, Terzian was awarded as “Outstanding Personality of Argentine Culture” by the Argentine Parliament.
THE POLYCHROMATICISM IN THE NOTATION OF THE ARMENIAN MUSIC
My research concerning this subject began in 1954, in Alberto Ginastera’s course on composition at the Superior National Music Conservatory in Buenos Aires (Argentina). I was 20 years old, but I was already familiar with Armenian music and the folk and religious melodies of Komitas Vardapet, because my mother used to sing them. During this first year of composition I had the chance to receive a journal of the Mekhitarist Congregation of Venice, in which there was an article by Reverend Dr. Leoncio Dayan that made a reference to the Armenian folk music collected by Komitas Vardapet and the very clear and defined presence in the latter of microtonalism in the form of “quarter-tones”. I immediately communicated to Dr. Dayan and, throughout the years, we maintained correspondence, full of his love for the in-depth studies of the Armenian religious and folk music collected by Komitas and the “discovery”, through his work, of the existence of quarter-tones.
The quarter-tones were very clearly indicated in the religious texts studied and analyzed by Dr. Dayan, as the Library of the Mekhitarist Religious Congregation of Venice possessed numerous very important ancient documents. The first important discovery for me were the quarter-tones that oriented me, in the same year, towards composing the “Three Pieces for Strings” based on Armenian folk melodies, where I had recourse to quarter-tones. That is to say, grace to Father Dayan I had discovered a new scale, where there was a new sound within and between each semitone, and I understood that this new quarter-tone sound was what gave the melody its very special color and spatial projection.
Throughout our entire communication Dr. Dayan sent me many books on this discovery written by him and published in Venice, in which there was a huge amount of Armenian melodies with quarter-tones occurring at different points, which was connected to some of the “modes” of the Armenian liturgy. Almost at the same time, I learnt that Armenian folk instruments, in a common tradition followed by folk performers, had incorporated the quarter-tone into the melodies in a very clear manner.
But at a certain moment I decided to integrate my knowledge on the quarter-tone directly into my musical activity, and it is in the year 1969 that I wrote my first piece in quarter-tones “Shantiniketan” for solo flute. A year later, in 1970, I continued working with the quarter-tones creating a piece for solo horn, the vibraphone and string orchestra entitled “Carmen Criaturalis”, which had been commissioned to me by composer and conductor Friederich Cerha for his presentation with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Buenos Aires at the Colon Theater. That is how I continued composing, always using the microtones I learnt about “by chance ” in 1954, in a book by Dr. Leoncio Dayan, to whom I dedicate this presentation.