Duduk is the most significant Armenian folk instrument.
The roots of duduk
in Armenia is dated back to the times of the Armenian king Tigran the Great (95-55BC.). The ancestor of duduk is an ancient
flute (aulos) made from the reed. Such duduk is depicted in the Armenian manuscripts
of Middle Ages.
Profoundly sad, magic, mild, unique, sonorous and melancholy sound of Duduk can express the tragic
and sorrow sentiments, which the Armenians experienced throughout the history. This makes duduk music able to ease and comfort,
close to the Armenian’s emotional spirit, turning the instrument into an inseparable companion through thousand years.
The sound of traditional duduk can reflect various moods depending on the context of the piece,
however it always has some peculiarity that belongs only to the nature of Duduk music.
Duduk is a double-reed aero-phone (woodwind) folk instrument with a cylindrical
bore made of apricot tree, which is most popular in Armenia.
This instrument has different prototypes, for example in Azerbaijan and
Iran it is call balaban or balaman, in Georgia - duduki,
in Turkey mey. There are both similarities and very noticeable important differences between the Armenian duduk (the
shape, the technique and the quality of sound) and neighboring instruments.
The Armenian name of the instrument is duduk or tsiranapokh –“apricot
tree pipe”, because the Armenian duduk is made from the wood of the Apricot tree, while in other countries it is usually
made from mulberry or other tree wood. Duduks’s body is carved from the
root (or wood) of an apricot tree (in Latin Armeniaca) and its reed, called “ghamish”
or “yegheg”, which is usually sliced from cane growing abundantly along the Arax River.
Duduk making process encompassing
several necessary stages of cutting the wood, keeping for 20-25 years for drying and preparation process: rolling, drilling,
liming, polishing, tuning. Before all these processes were made by hand, however in modern times duduk makers use the loom
for rolling and drilling.
The duduk reed preparation process also contains necessary stages of
cutting, slicing, drying, fire treatment, preparation of the small parts (bridle, cap), and also wetting.
During the 1920-30s the Armenian musicologist and musical
instrument maker Vardan Bouni considerably improved duduk and four principal types of the instrument have been redeveloped:
in A (f#-b'), in Bb (g-c’), in H (g#-c#`) in D/piccolo/(h-e flat’), each of them acquiring a range of an octave
and a fourth or third. The first (in A) was named Bounifon after the name of its creator- Bouni.
The size of the Armenian duduk varies from 28 cm to 40 cm. The most common “A-duduk”
is of 35.5 cm long, with an external diameter of 2.2 cm. The internal diameter is constant at 1.2 cm, only slightly varying
at the proximal end in order to accommodate the reed. The reed known as ghamish is 10.5 cm long, and flattened at the
proximal end. Two types at either side of the flattened end prevent splitting, which is often the result of constant movement
of the bridle, but also part of the unpredictability of organic materials. The bridle is always kept on the reed during performance
at whatever distance from the proximal end is necessary for the ideal aperture diameter, which it controls. At the beginning
of a performance the bridle is always more proximal than later, when the aperture size needs to be reduced. The flattened
end (7 cm) is filed to make it smooth and thin, giving the lips greater control. The distance 3.5 centimeters of the reed
are longitudinally furrowed, ending in a circumvolution of thread, whose purpose is to assure that the join is airtight. The
bridle never reaches the furrowed area. A cap, which remains loose during performance, is attached to the bridle by a string
joining one of the vertices of the bridle to one end of the cap.
The sound of each of four common types of duduk is different: one
of them (in A) is more appropriate for love songs; the smaller one (in D) is more appropriate for dances. The sound qualities
of the other two types of duduk have colors between duduks in A and in D. They have more universal usage: Duduk in B is closer
to the sound of in A; duduk in C is closer to the piccolo duduk (in D).
The renowned Armenian composer Aram Khachaturyan has said, “Duduk is the only
instrument that can make me cry”.
Not the name only, but also the sound of duduk is very different when play musicians
of different countries. The main difference from the different techniques of playing entirely controlled by the
lips creating different sound qualities. The Armenian musicians us special technique that makes duduk sound very close
to the human voice, and this very feature of Duduk sound is enriching the emotional expression to the extent of being the
Armenian musical epics. In Armenia, the duduk performing art and technique were developed and refined, passing from
generation to generation.
Armenian Duduk music is based on the not temperate musical scales. It reflects
intonations and colors of all the traditional dialects of Armenian language. The best duduk players always keep this
tradition as most important skill and technical quality.
The construction of the instrument requires special technical skills from the player for reproducing
of the unique timbre and musical expressiveness that is privilege of the Armenian duduk music.
The invariability of the
shape and size of fingerholes is of prime importance to the duduk, where covering holes to different degrees is very central
not only to pitch, but to the sound created, since any compromises offered by lipping are avoided in favor of better and more
consistent sound quality.
The first professional attempt of using duduk in the classical modern music was
made in 1980th when Armenian composer Avet Terteryan (1929-1995) wrote his 3rd Symphony reserving the parts
for duduk and zurna with symphony orchestra. This composition is very popular till now and is frequently performed by many
In year 2001 Duduk has been
chosen to represent a sound of Armenia in the Silk Road Project Inc., headed by the great cellist of our days Yo-Yo Ma.
One of the best duduk players of our days Gevorg Dabaghyan was chosen to be the performer of Armenian Duduk. The Armenian
Composer Vache Sharafyan was chosen
to be an official composer for the Project since 2001. Some of his compositions: ”The Sun, the Wine and the Wind of
Time” for duduk, violin, cello and piano (1998), “The Morning Scent of the Acacia’s Song” for duduk
and string quartet (2d version for duduk, soprano and string orchestra) published by G. Schirmer (2001), and “Ascending
Kemancha” for duduk (zurna), cello and piano (2002) were performed by duduk player Gevorg Dabaghyan, cellist Yo-Yo Ma
and the Silk Road Ensemble in Cologne Philharmonic, Brussels Philharmonic, Amsterdam’s Concertgebow, in USA: Carnegie
Hall, Berkeley University, Stanford University, Seattle Benaroya Hall, Washington National Mall, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Hall, in Italy: Rome, Florence, Milan., and other venues in USA and Europe and had a special success.
Yo-Yo Ma playing Sharafyan’s music with Gevorg Dabaghyan said about that
and duduk music as whole:
For me duduk is a
symbol of the Armenia… It seams to me that in this music duduk carries Armenian history, feeling of the Armenian people,
Shape of Armenian Land…
Music review, The Silk Road Ensemble at Chicago Orchestra Hall
Wednesday, December 18, 2002, by John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
“...But the most wonderful
piece on the program was "The Sun, the Wine, and the Wind of Time" (1998) by the Armenian composer Vache Sharafyan. The score
derived much of its ineffable sadness from the duduk, an oboe-like instrument whose quivery, throaty sounds were framed by
piano (Joel Fan), violin (Colin Jacobsen) and cello (Ma). The seamless evolution of moods and textures—from soft, somber
lines made up of pained intervals, to more violent outbursts, back to mournful lines—made it entirely absorbing to the
ear and mind..."
The compositions of Sharafyan present a new esthetics, which has roots
of traditional culture but based on the sophisticated combination of the national and international. This esthetics brings
together the Easter and Western cultures, creates the musical model of different civilizations and makes an appeal for the
harmonious co-existence of every culture within world heritage.
Another piece of Vache Sharafyan - “Tsov Kentsaghuis”
sharakan (Spirituals) of the founder of the Armenian alphabet St. Mesrop Mashtots was written for the mixed chorus
and three duduks and recently was recorded by the “Hover” chorus and the Dabaghyan Duduk Trio.