Silent Cranes

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Mary Kouyoumdjian (b. 1983)

Silent Cranes (2015)
   i. slave to your voice
   ii. you did not answer
   iii. [with blood-soaked feathers]
   iv. you flew away

   Projection Design: Laurie Olinder
   Poetry: David Barsamian, excerpts from “A
   Lighting Design: Brian H Scott
   Sound Design: Brian Mohr

   Producer: Janet Cowperthwaite
   Production Management: Kronos Performing Arts Association

Mary Kouyoumdjian was selected as the recipient of the fifth commission offered through the Kronos: Under 30 Project. Begun in 2003, the Kronos: Under 30 Project is a commissioning and residency program for composers under 30 years of age, created to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Kronos Quartet. The program supports the creation of new work by young artists, and helps Kronos cultivate stronger connections with young composers in order to develop lasting artistic relationships with the next creative generation. Kouyoumdjian’s work Bombs of Beirut, written for the Kronos: Under 30 Project, has been performed in major venues throughout the United States and Europe, including the Edinburgh International Festival.

Kouyoumdjian is a composer with projects ranging from concert works to multimedia collaborations and film scores. As a first generation Armenian-American and having come from a family directly affected by the Lebanese Civil War and Armenian Genocide, she uses a sonic pallet that draws on her heritage, interest in folk music, and background in experimental composition to progressively blend the old with the new.

Kouyoumdjian has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, Carnegie Hall for This Should Feel Like Home, the American Composers Forum/JFund for Dzov Yerku Kooynov [Sea of Two Colors], REDSHIFT, the Los Angeles New Music Ensemble, the Nouveau Classical Project, Friction Quartet, Experiments in Opera, and Ensemble Oktoplus. She has had composer residencies with Roulette/The Jerome Foundation, Con Edison’s Exploring the Metropolis, and Montalvo Arts Center. Her music has been described as “eloquently scripted” and “emotionally wracking” by The New York Times and “utterly moving… well-crafted, thoughtful, and engaging from beginning to end” by I Care if You Listen. In her work as a composer, orchestrator, and music editor for film, she has collaborated on a diverse array of motion pictures and recently orchestrated on the soundtrack to The Place Beyond the Pines (Focus Features). Currently based in Brooklyn, New York, Kouyoumdjian also actively promotes the growth of new music in her native state of California.

Holding an M.A. in Scoring for Film & Multimedia from New York University and a B.A. in Music Composition from the University of California, San Diego, she has studied contemporary composition with Chaya Czernowin, Steven Kazuo Takasugi, and Chinary Ung; new music performance with Steven Schick; and modern jazz with Anthony Davis. She will begin her D.M.A. in Composition as a Dean’s Fellow at Columbia University this fall. Kouyoumdjian is also a co-founder and the executive director of the New York-based contemporary music ensemble Hotel Elefant, co-founder of the New Music Gathering, and teaches at the New York Philharmonic’s Very Young Composers Bridge Program.

About Silent Cranes, Kouyoumdjian writes:

“April 24, 2015 marks the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a tragic event that led to the mass extermination of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks that was the first genocide of the 20th century. While over 20 countries and 43 U.S. States have formally recognized the Armenian Genocide, modern-day Turkey has yet to do so and threatens imprisonment to those who push the topic within its borders. Even now, 100 years later, this historic event continues to be just as unresolved as it was before. As an Armenian-American composer who values freedom of speech and whose family fled the genocide, I feel this is an essential time to remember those who were lost, while continuing a dialogue about what happened and how we can prevent further genocides from happening in the future.

Silent Cranes is inspired by the Armenian folk song Groung (Crane) in which the singer calls out to the migratory bird, begging for word from their homeland, only to have the crane respond with silence and fly away. The first, second, and fourth movement titles quote directly from the folk song lyrics. Those who were lost during the genocide are cranes in their own way, unable to speak of the horrors that happened, and it is the responsibility of the living to give them a voice.

“The prerecorded backing track includes testimonies by genocide survivors, recordings from the genocide era of Armenian folk songs, and a poem from investigative journalist David Barsamian in response to the question ‘Why is it important to talk about the Armenian Genocide 100 years later?’

“Special thanks to those who shared their history, to those who contributed recordings, to Laurie Olinder for creating a visual narrative for this project, to David Barsamian for his words and light, and to the Kronos Quartet and Kronos Performing Arts Association for telling this story that so desperately needs to be heard.  Silent Cranes is dedicated to those lost and to those living who can promote change.”

Folk Songs:
Groung (Crane) performed by Komitas Vardapet/Armenak Shah Muradian and Andouni (Homeless) performed by Komitas Vardapet in Paris, France, 1912 (courtesy of Traditional Crossroads); Groung (Crane) performed by Zabelle Panosian in Harlem, New York, 1916 (courtesy of Tompkins Square)

Survivor Testimonies:
Araxie Barsamian, Bishop Hagop, Victoria Mellian, (courtesy of David Barsamian); Haig Baronian, Aghavnie Der Sarkissian, Elise Hagopian Taft, Nium Sukkar, (courtesy of the Armenian Film Foundation); Azniv Guiragossian (interviewed by Taleen Babayan and the composer)

Laurie Olinder is a multimedia designer, painter and photographer. She is a founding member of New York’s Ridge Theater and has been recognized with an OBIE Award, a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award and an Eliot Norton Award for Outstanding Design in the Theater. Olinder has designed projections for numerous contemporary composers and performers, including John Adams, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Gavin Bryars, Bryce Dessner, Philip Glass, Michael Gordon, Henryk Górecki, Kronos Quartet, David Lang and Julia Wolfe. Her work has been shown at noted performance venues such as American Repertory Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and MASS MoCA.

One of America’s most tireless and wide-ranging investigative journalists, David Barsamian has altered the independent media landscape, both with his weekly radio show Alternative Radio and his books with Noam Chomsky, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn, Tariq Ali, Richard Wolff, Arundhati Roy and Edward Said. His latest book of interviews with Noam Chomsky is Power Systems: Conversations on Global Democratic Uprisings and the New Challenges to U.S. Empire. His best-selling books with Chomsky have been translated into many languages. He lectures on world affairs, imperialism, the state of journalism, censorship, the economic crisis and global rebellions.

He is winner of the Media Education Award, the ACLU’s Upton Sinclair Award for independent journalism, and the Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the Lannan Foundation. The Institute for Alternative Journalism named him one of its Top Ten Media Heroes. He is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center. As Arundhati Roy wrote for The Guardian, Barsamian was deported from India in 2011 due to his work on Kashmir and other revolts. He is still barred from traveling to “the world’s largest democracy.”


a severely beautiful, dynamically vibrant if unceasingly pained and mournful portrait of an injustice that's far too often overlooked...if we forget events like these, those things might well happen to us.

New York Music Daily

not only eye-opening but ear-opening.

Rebecca Lentjes, I Care If You Listen

Mary Kouyoumdjian’s Silent Cranes was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet with support from the David Harrington Research and Development Fund, the Angel Stoyanof Commission Fund, Zvart and Rouben Potoukian, Andrea A. Lunsford, Gates McFadden and Robert Straus, Dayna Sumiyoshi and Greg Smedsrud, many funders in the Indiegogo community, and other generous individuals. Silent Cranes was premiered by the Kronos Quartet at the Yerevan Perspectives 16th International Music Festival in the Armenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Yerevan, Armenia, on April 29, 2015.

Kronos thanks the following individuals in the Indiegogo community for supporting this project: Anonymous (25), Patrick Allen, Michelle Andonian, Albert Arustamov, Susan Averbach, Ailin Barseghian, Nurhan Becidyan, Rita Belian, Dmitrij Beloussow, Anna Bidakowska, Russell Blanchard, Daniel Bush, Gregg Butensky, George Carter, Murray Coffey, Janet Cowperthwaite, David Dawson, Mason Dille, David Drexler, Christopher English, Dominica Eriksen, Ruth Fink-Winter, Kenneth Foster, Jimmy Frazier, Giada Giovanile, Meri Grigoryan, Eric V. Hachikian, Narineh Hacopian, Anna Harmandarian, Ken Herman, Laura Higdon, Armineh Hovanesian, Datevik Hovanesian, Ara Howrani, Megan Ihnen, Janina Jankowski, Christina Johnson, Dave Jordan, Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan, William S. Kirkham, Andrea Lunsford, Donlyn Lyndon, Mimi Malayan, Harmik Mansourian, Nikolás McConnie-Saad, Kenneth McKlinski, Kate Morrison, Jennifer Moser, Kären Nagy, Armine Nazarian, Hannah Neff, David Newton, James Nicholas Ohler, Laurie Olinder, Stepan Pachikov, Karl Paloucek, Henk Pel, Toni Howell Pentecouteau, Vaghinak Petrosyan, Ken Prokuski, Dani Putterman, Marjorie Randolph, Laird Rodet and Sharon Shepherd, Asima FX Saad Maura, Sara Sackner, Tanniel Simonian, Curtis Smith, Steven Takasugi, Eva Tasmadjian, Ola Torstensson, Anush Tserunyan, Leaha Maria Villarreal, Kirsten Volness, Aleksandra Vrebalov, John Watts, Glenn Weyant, Geert Van Wonterghem

12-3-16Berkeley, CaliforniaZellerbach Hall Cal Performances
11-19-15Santa Barbara, CaliforniaCampbell Hall- UCSB Arts & Lectures University of California, Santa Barbara
5-12-15Brooklyn, New YorkRouletteRoulette
4-29-15Yerevan, ArmeniaArmenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and BalletYerevan Perspectives 16th International Music Festival

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Jan23Hanover, New HampshireSpaulding Auditorium
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