Monday, December 17, 2012

Snowpocolypistan: Yerevan Style

Some thoughts as I pack to visit home for the next nine days...

Is there anything more poetic, more enlivening than Yerevan under a thick blanket of snow? That makes you feel warm as you plod through the piercing cold? That opens your senses and makes every step an exhilarating victory?

Today is my last day in Armenia...for the moment. I return after a brief visit home for nine days. I'm excited to see my family, but can't help feel that departing now in this momentous changing of the seasonal guard leaves a bitter sweet texture in my heart.

Where do I live, I wondered, sliding through the snowy streets en route to the conservatory with a freshly strung flamenco guitar in hand? Today my lessons with the local flamenco master Hagop Chaghatzbanian took place at the Yerevan Conservatory of Music, fourth floor, room 435. I got there before Hagop. They gave me the key to the room. Operatic belting and tetrachords floating down the hall. The passion and relentless practice to maintain this immense artistic pride I'm lucky enough to have a slice of. I hit the lights and look out the window. I watch snow coat the brilliant-grey opera house as winterized citizens amble on. Hagop is on his way. But wait. Where's my foot stool? You need a foot stool to play flamenco guitar, whether you're in Yerevan, Sevilla, or Baltimore. Aha - it's tucked behind the heater. I'm still getting the hang of this flamenco thing - it's a technical juggernaut that demands only the most focused levels of practice and attention to detail, to sound, to the gorgeous strokes, attacks, arpeggios, rasgueos, trills, ad infinitum of flamenco guitar - but you sit in that room and you flip that foot stool open and strum one of those tragic open chords that fills the room with an emotion you can't describe in this snow blanketed post-Soviet urban mystery and what you get is simple: the spirit of existence.

Walking back home I think of the musicians who have come through this conservatory for decades and the artists who have walked these streets for centuries and the spirits of those children in Connecticut that will haunt us for the rest of our lives consciously and subconsciously and the call to action to stand up against the ignorance and vitriol that keeps gun's circulating in America's market of the unnecessary.

Adieu, Yerevan. For now.