In the Caucasus We Count

WiP: Shifting Symbols of Identity - Armenian Oud Playing, May 25 - Alyssa Mathias


CRRC-Georgia, ARISC and American Councils present the 16th talk of the Spring 2016 Works-in-Progress season:

"Shifting Symbols of Identity - Armenian Oud Playing in the 1960s and 1970s"
Alyssa Mathias, University of California, Los Angeles

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 6:30pm

1 Ramaz Chkhikvadze Str. (Former 5 Chavchavadze Ave.)
Entrance III-IV, First Floor
0179 Tbilisi, Georgia

By the mid-1960s, Armenian oud musicians in the United States found themselves at a crossroads. Was their instrument (a pear-shaped fretless lute found across the Middle East) a cherished heirloom connecting diasporan families to lost Western Armenian villages? Or was its sound simply too Turkish to be enjoyed in a new political climate focused on genocide recognition? As families retired their ouds and put them into storage, a few young children nonetheless aspired to learn the instrument. This talk, which draws on both ethnographic and archival research, discusses what it was like to learn the oud at such a significant moment of social, cultural, and political change.

Alyssa Mathias is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She has conducted research on Armenian music in the United States, Russia, Turkey, and Armenia. In 2015, she was awarded the Historical Ethnomusicology Section Student Paper Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology. A violinist and singer, Alyssa performs a wide variety of music from Europe and the Middle East.

W-i-P is an ongoing academic discussion series based in Tbilisi, Georgia. It is co-organized by the Caucasus Research Resource Centers (CRRC), the American Councils for International Education (ACTR/ACCELS), and the American Research Institute of the South Caucasus (ARISC). All of the talks are free and open to the public.

The purpose of the W-i-P series is to provide support and productive criticism to those researching and developing academic projects pertaining the Caucasus region.

Would you like to present at one of the W-i-P sessions? Send an e-mail to