Interview of Michel Pétrossian
Why did you choose to create an original work for the occasion?
Three main reasons, apart from the obvious reason of my personal history.
The shockwave that was coming before 1915 and which increased, is still present. I would say that beyond the outside political and social aspect, it’s a deep shock, since it raised countless universal questions . Questions about identity, about the mystery of evil, about the opaque mystery – as Paul Ricoeur called it -, about the relationship to others that is not us, about the spiritual dimension of violence and justice …
To stand this shock, to negotiate these issues, we need powerful outlets that can move us and open up to a new life – write a new work that stems various energy is then a great privilege.
At the same time, in the organizer minds and in all of those who carry this project, this is a concert of the living and not of the survivors. It is very important to me! The combination of artistic energies in the interpretation and the creation will show the richness of a complex culture. This is in itself a statement of hope and life, a positive energy that cancels the ultimate aim of the genocide.
I take this opportunity to point out that to unite the interpretative and creative dimension, we also need an organizational entity, without which the event would not be possible! I am thinking here about the AGBU which initiated the project, which is the sponsor of the work. The dedication of its members is admirable. They manage a set of complex and difficult operations during their free time or even their professional time, to make this concert a success. That work and that commitment force me and are also one of my motivations to work.
The first two reasons for my writing can be two temptations: first, avoiding pain by fear of a victimizing “deja vu” that isolate and that can upset those who are more or less external to 1915 events. The second temptation is, once immersed in pain, to stay, to indulge, to find its reason for living and paradoxically perpetuate death – to choose for residence “the valley of the shadow of death … ”
So, my first two reasons are negotiating pain and affirming hope.
The third reason to write a work is to build a necessity.
“Indeed, in our society, Art – and contemporary music in particular –
has a paradoxical place. Its presence is undeniable, but its purpose is constantly negotiated, as its necessity can be questioned. Should Art be reserved for elites refined enough to appreciate it, or should it lose its requirements to embrace wider and justify sometimes its heavy funding? Is it primarily a place of amusement or investment? Among the ancient civilisations, Greece for example, Art had several functions – social, philosophical, religious, scientific, ritual … – that are not always obvious today. And we can say, without exaggeration, that in the Armenian culture, music is the soul of the nation, in its spiritual component with a single value, as well as in traditional singing – living memory that preserved up to the pre-Christian Armenia era…”
“Of course, Art requires a lot of money to be realized, and in the case of our project,
support from all partners is invaluable. But in its ultimate goal, Art must be, for me, a broader need for itself, and without marketing considerations. It must find, I dare say, a prophetic vocation: to say about us and the world, from the evil gaping, something beyond us and which reveals the beauty by surprise, like an unexpected grace.”
“To mark the centenary, there is clearly a collective and multiple expectation which, for me, founds this need and creates a unique historical moment.”