Album Title: Songs from a World Apart
Performers: Lévon Minassian, Armand Amar
Label & #: LongDistance 0570205
Play Time:
Recorded: 2005

Djivan Gasparian made the Armenian duduk a household word among Western audiences. Its plaintive call has become a favorite with makers of epic movies whose soundtracks routinely feature this ancient, very hard to blow Apricot-wood oboe.

Marseille-born Lévon Minassian is a reclusive but celebrated master of the same instrument. Songs from a World Apart sets it against the string pedals of the Bulgarian Symphony Orchestra and seasons the otherworldly atmosphere with piano, nickelharpa, viola d'amore, kamanche, oud and tanbur in places.

These wordless songs float stately in a sort of melancholy mist that suggests bygone times of candle rather than electric illumination. The emotional tenor of the album is one of sadness mixed with longing - mortal heaviness suffused by the upward pull of spirit clamoring for freedom. Far from morbid, this half-light quality creates terrific tension and emotional depth. Meanwhile the glorious melodies evoke something very ancient; ancestral memories perhaps. On "Yes tchem ouzoum dzeranl", Lévon vocalizes just as Gasparian did for Vollenweider while on the closer "Nusrat's Alap", the legendary quawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan improvises around a tweaky minor-key scale embedded in the album's previously established ambiance encircled by Minassian's reed. Elegiac, mysterious, haunting even, Songs from a World Apart are true to their title. The question merely is whether their world is really elsewhere...