Ara Dinkjian - Conversations with Manol
Recently, I was asked by a friend to record some solo oud music to be used as a background soundtrack for her poetry recitation. Accordingly, I booked a short session at a friend’s home studio. It was the first and only time I had entered a studio without any preparation or ideas as to what I was going to play.
I decided to bring an oud I had only recently acquired, but had not yet played. It was made in 1907 by the renowned Greek luthier, Emmanuel Venios (1838-1914) in Constantinople. Better known as Manol, he was considered the Stradivarius of oud makers.
I have always wished these antique instruments could tell us their stories (i.e. who played them, where did they travel, whom did they accompany, on what stages did they appear, etc.). My friend set up the microphones and signaled that recording had begun. As I began, I realized that I was not “playing” the oud, but instead listening to it, as if it was indeed telling me its story.
Today’s modern recording software offers unimaginable editing capabilities. However, I have decided to leave this project completely faithful to how it was played, imperfect, like the wood grains. Nothing has been deleted or edited, and there were no second “takes.” The pieces, or “stories” appeared in three categories:
a) free introduction and song (tracks 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9)
b) grooves (tracks 2, 4, and 6)
c) minimalist landscapes (tracks 8 and 10)
These are not taksims by any means, however they are mostly based on the makam language which is so connected to the oud.
Upon listening back to what had occurred, I sensed that instead of a soundtrack for poetry, this was actually an homage to the great luthiers who have given musicians the tools and thus inspiration they need to create music. May their art live on forever.
9. Future 10. Silence