Prof. Sergey Sargsyan was born in Tbilisi, capital of then Soviet Georgia on April 7, 1982. As times were nearing to collapse of USSR, his family witnessed some of the rising nationalism in Georgia and moved to Armenia, later to Russia and back to Armenia to settle down there on permanent basis in 1995. Living and studying in various environments Sergey developed good communication and language skills which influenced his choice in education – linguistics.
Having received his PhD at Yerevan State Linguistic University in 2006, Sergsyan moved on to lecture at the Chair of English Communications at the same university. Currently, he lectures at Brusov University on English language lexical studies, combining this enrollment with a job for one of US-funded Civil Society projects.
The article below is a brief account of Sargsyan’s friendship with Edward Manukyan during the period from 1998 to 2002, when both were young students at Yerevan State Linguistic University. It was written to be published exclusively on EdwardManukyan.com. A small portion of its content was edited out.
You can write to Dr. Sargsyan at:
Edward Manukyan - My Composer Friend
By Sergey Sargsyan
Published: Tuesday, July 01, 2008
When I met Edward Manukyan in 1998, we both were in our early student years at the Yerevan State Linguistic University after Brusov. He chose the department of psychology after the initial two years and I went into studying French and stylistics. Every once in a while we would share common lectures, in addition to taking part in university-organized expeditions and various student events, which we both were actively involved in. Our friendship, slowly but steadily, developed from around the time we met. It was perhaps his zest for life and enormous curiosity about things that attracted not only my attention but also that of many fellow students. We shared attractions to various subjects through the years constantly arguing on philosophy, traditions and social perceptions. He always tended to think out of the box, which also reflected greatly in his sense of humor. We both enjoyed jokes and situations breaking stiff clichés and routine behavior.
I was interested in languages and politics then, but his main academic interests were around psychology and philosophy. He read a lot of German classic philosophy, the works of ancient Greek philosophers, and a vast realm of world literature, ranging from Shakespeare to Isaakian. We used to have long, endless debates with fellow students and professors. Edward always defended his often controversial opinions with logic and reason. I even think some of the professors slightly hated us for bringing discussions and debates into orderly lectures.
I remember when he wrote a paper on moral philosophy, called "The Dissolution of the Roots of Idealism", in which he challenged fundamental social concepts, dismissing respect for authority, public opinion, religious faith, etc. In his opinion, a vast range of social behavior can be proven not only questionable or useless but also “plain stupid“, and it often could be shown through nothing more than simple logical syllogisms. He also brought up a new concept of cynicism, claiming it to be a necessary and unavoidable state of mind when one is confronted by a world population which as a whole is incapable of rising above its basic impulses for possession, warfare- ultimately unable to ensure its own survival. The suggested cynicism-based approach perhaps simply saves the trouble of false emotions about important subjects like life/death, humanity, world order, etc. Unrestricted from traditional emotiveness, cynicism itself helps find relatively meaningful values.
On a similar stream, Edward and I kept challenging students on themes of ethics, traditions (especially the many taboos rooted in our post-socialist society), and inter-gender relationships. His point was that all norms of behavior are conventional. And if so, why not generate conventions that more useful and relevant, instead of adapting blindly to inherited ones. The underlying idea was that of bringing more liberty in all kinds of relationships and behavior, which has always been a matter of stiff abridgments, because the evolution of human consciousness has risen considerably and allows for greater freedom.
There are endless number of interesting stories from this early period, many of them have to do with our dating experience with the unusually high number of girls that studied at our university. Of course, none of us could afford turning blind eye to such luxury, and <...>
On another occasion, around ten girls were sent to our school from the Republic of Georgia, to see our country and get to know the culture by visiting our museums, monuments, ancient churches etc. The student union was given a sum of money to accompany them for the entire week of their visit, and Edward suggested that we spend the money more creatively... Needles to say, we were at night-clubs and bars every single night until the group left. Instead of ancient churches and Pantheons, the loud night-clubs and dark downtown bars are all they must be remembering now.
I don't feel even slightly embarrassed to share such stories of our juvenile years, because it is in these stories that a man's creativity is manifested most vividly, not mentioning that some of them are extremely funny recollections that I always enjoy looking back to.
I think the same curiosity that drives him to explore music was also driving him to explore humanity, its collective psyche and system of values. He realized that unorthodox thinking is the first step in breaking the spell of common delusions. He despised the tyranny of public opinion with a passion, and maintained that traditions are only useful in as far as they can benefit the individual. One of the fellow students, who was very traditional and constantly conscious of the public’s perception of his image, was mercilessly nicknamed “Social Norms” by Edward, and many of our friends still refer to him with that soul-depicting nickname.
He was then very interested in jazz and songwriting. Not only have I seen him actually writing songs, but at least on one occasion we have collaborated. I remember once being bored with a lecture in 3rd year or so, when we indulged in writing what eventually ended up as “I Can’t Love You”, a song for a few lines in which I am screamingly proud to claim credit.*
Things were going through a classic-happy-studenthood kind of stream till it came to enrolling ourselves into the trip to U.S. Obviously this was to become the turning point primarily in Edward’s life (although it changed a lot for me as well). None of us was any sure how things would flow from after the trip, but we did feel we needed to make the most of the time remaining to it. That was the fourth year at university, the one prior to graduation and we went out for all kinds of events and activities both at Brusov and elsewhere. This was the year when we kept throwing musical events at the Conference and the Big Hall of the University starting from themes of 60’s on to the culmination of Edward’s musical efforts – a big time jazz concert with then quite recognized duet of “Yeghiazaryan sisters” featuring Edward’s songs at the University Big Hall. This was truly a big event then and made a significant splash far beyond Brusov walls, enforced further by subsequent concerts at a few other venues in Yerevan. It was right before we left for the U.S. but if we were to stay in Armenia for the summer, the waving splash would certainly secure a permanent domestic career for Edward.
We left, however... Different flights, each on his own... I returned to Armenia soon, but he remained in the States and eventually settled in Los Angeles. The anticipation of our meeting this fall, as he visits Armenia on a music tour with the Armenian Philharmonic, is a profoundly heart-warming feeling. We have been in touch through phone and email all these years and we know quite a bit about each other’s lives, nevertheless the joys of our friendship seem to be suspended by the lack of direct and spontaneous communication...
And so it has been some 6 thick years of Edward’s life and times in the States and the active evolution of his musical talents in California. The information reaching out from there has been very encouraging and it does appear to be blooming in terms of both recognition of his music by U.S. academic circles and gaining wider audiences. His acquaintance and subsequent friendship with such high-profile figures as the Nobel-prize winning biologist James D. Watson and author Noam Chomsky seems to have sparked a new interest in science and philosophy, and yet his musical pursuits seem to endure on and on, with even greater enthusiasm.
Although music is not my area of expertise, I must make a few observations that I believe have a certain validity. I think that the main value of his music lies not only in his masterful accommodation of Armenian folk elements (something which he developed only later in United States), but also the trespassing of his experience in jazz and improvisation that he gained during his work with the local orchestras and his own jazz quartet, which unfortunately performed only for a short time before he left for the U.S. Although running the risk of bias, I feel comfortable to believe that Edward is up for building serious musical heritage in classical symphonic music, specifically in the direction that he has taken - the integration of Armenian folk elements in his broadly influenced style. The mere richness of his musical experiences, coupled with his gigantic passion for work, have the potential of turning him into a historic name in the contemporary music of Armenia.
If Khachaturian’s era of the past century was the coming-together of Armenian and Russian traditions, today’s era is the coming-together of Armenian music and the wealth of world traditions. In a sense, it is a truly international era, waiting to be championed by the likes of my composer friend.
*Author refers to the words “…but I can make your dizzy lips feel so at home” from the song “I Can’t Love You”, written in the winter of 2002.