What Are Some Characteristics of Armenian Music?

Traditional Armenian folk music is ancient in origin and typically consists of a delicate, monotone, single voice structure and a special tetrachordal tonal system different from the European tonal system. Armenian church music also uses the same tetrachordal tonal system. Armenian melodies range from melancholic to celebratory.

Archaeological finds chronicle Armenian music and dancing from as early as the 5,000 B.C. Bronze bells used in ceremonial ritual music were dated to 2,000 B.C.

Armenian musical style and purpose evolved over the years, with momentous changes occurring between the two periods between the fifth and seventh centuries and the 10th and 13th centuries. Musical genres ranged from pastoral music to urban and profane songs and included themes such as morality, heroism and work.

Armenia became a Christian nation in the fourth century, but Christian music only became more prevalent in the fifth century, after the development of the Armenian alphabet. Nevertheless, the new Christian hymns were inspired by pagan songs and even used similar melodies.

String, wind and percussion instruments gained prominence in Armenian music during the Middle Ages. In addition, the musical annotation system was developed between the 12th and 13th centuries. Armenia lost its sovereignty during the late Middle Ages, and the music took on a nostalgic and sorrowful tone during the period, focusing on themes of migration, displacement and homelessness.