The Suni Project: Music Preservation

Grikor Mirzaian Suni (1876-1939)

1723 Wells | Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3601 USA | (734) 996-1949 |

Suni’s Music

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Grikor Mirzaian Suni was an ethnomusicologist who traveled from village to village, starting in the 1890’s, listening and writing down what the people were singing. Many of these Armenian folk songs he arranged for four-part chorus, which he would then teach to the choruses he created all over the far-flung Armenian world. He started with his hometown in 1895 in Shushi, continuing for over 40 years until his death in 1939 in Philadelphia. Grikor Mirzaian Suni created lively polyphony form original one-voiced folk songs, giving independence to the parts. His music was a contrapuntal revelation to the Armenian music world. This counterpoint and the harmonies created by simultaneous vocal lines give special life and beauty to his music. His son Gourgen (George) Suny said “My father’s music is harmony”.

Suni also created orchestral works of lyric beauty, and also many marches, “songs for a new life”. Part of his life’s endeavor was to enliven and organize Armenians. Especially after the 1915 Ottoman Turkish genocide of its Armenian citizens, Suni told his people to stop crying and to instead get up and sing. Many of his songs are in the typical minor-sounding Armenian tradition, but he also wrote bright marches in major keys to help the people get up from grief and build a new life. He uses the typical Armenian rhythms, often in 6/8 time with eighth-note groupings of both 2 and 3, sometimes at the same time. As Armenian music was one-voiced traditionally, his harmonies and contrapuntal melodies are new, and uniquely “Suni”, yet they still are appropriate and sound Armenian. Suni’s choruses were community choruses. He believed that every person could learn and sing, and be moved and inspired by singing in his choruses, yet at the same time he demonstrated the highest artistic presentation.

You can listen to some of the many different styles of music of Grikor Mirzaian Suni. To listen and download, visit the Recordings + Song Words page.

Some Suni music scores are available to view and download. Many of his works are unpublished, still in handwritten form as you’ll see here. We love to share the music so more people will enjoy performing and listening to his very special contributions to world culture.