When thinking about music for “Taniel” it was really important to first understand as much as possible about the man himself as a person, his poems, family, loves, passions and facts of his last months, before being able to create a soundtrack that would give the film its own individual voice.
Taniel Varoujan, a Western Armenian who lived in Bolis (Constantinople) a sophisticated poet and teacher, studied at Ghent University in Belgium, spoke and read in French, loved European culture whilst embodying everything about the Armenian people and landscape, from villagers in their fields to Kings and Queens in castles on mountain peaks bellow the stars in the sky. Thus a story of a man that should not be identified with any form of Armenian stereotype that we tend to see regurgitated in many publications and films.
When we talk about the tragedy of Armenia and Genocide what can be forgotten under the immense shadow of the loss of life is also the destruction of culture, language, traditions and of course music. Armenian’s have an ever decreasing reference point as to what Armenia and its culture is, a nation whose peoples over 100 years ago lived as far apart as the Caspian, Black and Mediterranean seas with distinct and diverse histories, is now after the calamity of the Genocide represented only by the final surviving part of the nation, a small landlocked country at the foot of the Caucasus Mountains, a very different place to Adana, Smyrna, Trebizond, Van and of course Constantinople, Taniel’s home and the largest urban Armenian population at the turn of the 20th century.
Through an Arthouse approach, the film reflects on the last months of Taniel Varoujan’s life and I wanted to create a soundscape from the titles to the end credits that supported and emotionally connected the audience to his narrative, starting from the tension of World War 1 to Varoujan’s, arrest at home, his captivity in prison, murder and finally ascension. I was keen to be able to combine tracks that felt old yet new, deep and emotive, surreal and contrasting the dichotomy that was Constantinople, a city facing West whilst glancing back over her shoulder to the East.
We are extremely fortunate to have some of the most talented artists’ work in the film. The legendary Philip Glass played by Valentina Lisitsa sets the scene, Jordi Savall gives Constantinople its Western Armenian character, the wonderfully talented Tigran Hamasyan and music from the album “Luys i Luso” is the driving force across the film connecting the scenes with his beautiful complex and emotive cascade of notes and vocals, the brilliant Michael Nyman sets Taniel free and Arik Grigoryan puts down his rock guitar and delves deeper into the rich history of Armenian folk music, reminding us that the human spirit cannot be destroyed by tyrants.