Tigran Martikyan. An intellectual pianist between past and present

I don’t know why. I don’t know who I am. I just came to this planet and I am trying to make a sense out of life. I am an artist, I am a musicican. I am not an artist and I am not a musician. It is a combination of things which to me are unknown” .

Tigran Martikyan

Back in Armenia, when he was a 8 years old boy Tigran started to study music. He wanted to learn how to play piano but the principal of the music school said he had too short fingers to be a pianist and he suggested him to play cello. Tigran thought the story of the too short fingers was an implausible reason not to allow him to play piano. However he begun to take cello lessons that he studied for 8 years. Despite the suggestion of the school’s principal, he was too actracted by the piano and took also piano lessons for 5 years. The principal of the school used to go and listen to the students playing during class. Once he went to the solfeggio class where Tigran was. There the teacher invited him to listen to Tigran playing jazz.

Tigran started playing so the principal said:

OMG! I feel so sorry that we didn’t admit you to the piano class. You are so talented!”.

Tigran replied:

Do you remember when I wanted to apply to enroll at the piano class and you said that my fingers were too short? Well. Here I am”.

Tigran Martikyan Armenian jazz pianist
Photo© Low Pulse Project

Beside this, while studying cello and playing piano Tigran also started to play accordion and went to play at weddings. His cousin was taking accordion lessons and he was listening to him and learning.

The talented Tigran began to participate to music contests. He loves art and music. Creativity is important to him and he is constantly in a searching. In 1988 his family decided to emigrate. They had the dream of moving to United States of America. When they moved to Los Angeles he was 16 years old. At the beginning his family didn’t even like the new world. Later, they adapted to it and no longer moved. Tigran went to high school to get his education at USC which is now Thornton School of Music. He studied at jazz department for 4 years after college. Then, a friend

Tigran Martikyan Armenian jazz pianist
Photo© Low Pulse Project

of him, who is a musician as well, suggested him to move forward with music and with life.

Tigran still remembers his friend’ words:

Tigran, I think you might want to change your life as an artist you should leave your family and take your way. You might want to move in a different city and find your freedom, your own way, the right way to express your own creativity. You need a new enviroment. A new circle.

Tigran pianist
Photo© Low Pulse Project

Tigran agreed with his friend who was pushing him. New York City was one of his first choices. He got a scholarship and he went there. The first couple of years were quite hard but he was so happy to do it, so that he stayed for 13 years. He grew up playing jazz and his passion for this music genre became even stronger as soon as he listened to Bill Evans. His memories go at that time when he first arrived in U.S.A.. He bought an album that he listened for 24 hours. Improvisation is what always attracted him.

T.M.: “Through jazz you can express your own personality in music. You can talk just the way you want to talk. To me this was attractive. So I said I want to play jazz.

And we all know that it is better move to New York City if you want to play real jazz! Weather a part, the change from Los Angeles to New York City it will not have been a pleasant walk. Even though he was very attracted to jazz music, and never stop studying it, he was playing different music genre at gigs. At the beginning of his staying in New York City he used to play different kind of music, from classical to traditional to music for ballet… Then it came the moment in which he decided to play jazz only.

T.M.: ”Being a Musician in New York City is very challenging. There is much competition and there are many great artists. You can easily meet a 7 years old boy getting up on stage and challenging you! In New York City you are forced to grow up. You learn. You have to go forward otherwise other musicians will step on you. You need to have the desire to do it. If not, you are dead. Being a musician in New York City is such a prestigious thing and you have to be a real good musician to survive there and live on music only. It is quite like going to study art in Italy. To study in Italy you have to be good otherwise they will stock you out! In Italy there are artists at an higher level.

Although he has been studying music since he was a child he likes to say that he became a musician in New York City.

T.M.: ”I musically grew up in New York City . I like to believe like this. I can see that improvement. I can see the difference between Los Angeles and New York City. I felt I did a big jump. In New York City you listen to other musicians and have the desire to be like them, to improve yourself, to always get better. It is more stimulating. It is competition in a good way, not in a bulling way. There you try to be as good as you can. New York City is music. It is art by itself.

When Tigran lived in New York City during his free time he enjoyed going around by subway, eating good food and talking to people.

T.M.: “Talking to people is something that makes my music better. Not even playing the piano but just living the city. You see someone playing guitar in Central Park he is a great musician and you enjoy the music and learn something from him. These people are really good. They can play really great. There are a lot of amazing street artists.

It’s so clear why he prefers New York City to Los Angeles. In the big apple people are more real and more communicative. They live a real life. Whereas in Los Angeles all is fake, people first. In fact, if you are too much yourself people will be shocked. More than the city of angels, it could be called the city of automata. If you try to talk to someone on the street, unless they are homeless (the homeless talk to you) they will look at you with frightened eyes and run away!

One evening, at a birthday party, I heard an anecdote involving the myth Chick Corea and Tigran Martikyan. It was the anecdote that led me to meet the Armenian pianist and prompted me to ask him for an interview. It is a privilege for me, and I am honored to have met him. So, once I got to his studio to interview him, I was excited to hear that anecdote from him. It is said that Chick Corea used to describe music through food. Speaking of Tigran, after complimenting his playing which he defined as absolutely unique. Corea described his music as a delicious chicken soup with garlic and sweet carrots. He called it intellectual music. He said that above all he was curious to hear where each of his musical passages arrived and how they got there. He deeply appreciated Tigran in all his performances.

T.M. : ”When I listened to Chick Corea playing the first time I got goosebumps. He got a such a unique way to play! He inspired me a lot. When I was young I tried to imitate him. Some years ago, there was a jazz discovery show case on cable TV. At that time I had just recorded a live concert at Manhattan school of Music. That music was chosen for the TV show. It was unexpected that there was Chick Corea commenting our performance. The show was broadcast also in Europe and I got calls from everywhere at 3AM, 4AM… It was a live show. I was really happy. Chick Corea talked about my music and my way to play. He liked it and he described my music like delicious food. That expreience was really good for me I was really happy and made me practice even more. It pushed me to be more creative and to…Just go forward.”

Tigran has a big heart and a deep sensitivity. He cares a lot about his cultural heritage and always carries his beloved homecounrty in his heart. In spite of being busy with his concerts in 2014 he found time to dedicate to a cause for Armenia. He recorded A Trip to New York, a live concert featuring original and cover songs rearranged by his own way. It was a project to build a school for kids in the beautiful country of stones and he played to raise money for the school. The profit went entirely to the school. His artistic spirit has no limits. Being a person highly communicative he did not stop at music but found another channel of expression which is sculpture. It is something in which he also excels. He likes improvising in life just like he does it in music.

T.M.: ”Some months ago I wanted to take a break with music and dedicate to sculpture. Music is my life and art is something that makes me happy and takes my attention. Art and music are to me like sister and brother. When I don’t play or compose music, I make art and vice versa.

A few years ago his mother passed away. He loved her very much and she always supported him in his choices. Before her death she was sick for a long time and Tigran, from New York, returned back to Los Angeles to take care of her. At that time he went through a severe depression. When he was taking care of his mother he started making sculptures. He begun first by observing artist doing it then he decided to get into it deeper. Behind every event as well as behind every song or work of art there is always a story that is what we are interested in telling and that most of times has poetry in it. Few months ago Tigran composed a song entitled A While Back. It is a music composition in which he says a lot. Probably in this song there are all the emotions of the stories and of the anecdotes told in this interview. You can watch the video of Tigran playing it live and listen to the song on our web page where it was published for Talent Spotlight.

T.M.: ”There are a number of things that are related to the past included my mother and my personal experiences. There is a little bit of that and a little bit of this. I wanted to make the melody like a playful dance. I didn’t want to make it like a ballad. Ballads are more for stories.

In “A While Back” there is a story line but in a dancing form. It has stories and emotions and you can dance it. It is so dear to me.

Today Tigran deals with the indifference and lack of sensitivity of Los Angeles by expressing himself through the uniqueness of his music and art. Visit Tigran website at www.tigranmartikyan.com