It seems as though anybody can to touched with the 'icon' or 'legend' moniker but few today come close to earning it. But when you're Armen Ra, one of the world's foremost masters of the Theremin there are fewer words one can use to describe him other than iconic.
Armen Ra was the focus of Robert Nazar Arjoyan documentary 'When My Sorrow Died' which went onto win multiple awards during its festival run.
Hi Armen, thanks for talking to TNC, how's it going?
Greetings. All is well thank you. Busy with the screenings and performances and meetings. very grateful.
Has it surprised you the level of attention your film has been getting?
Yes and no. It’s strange, not that I thought no one would be interested, however the wide demographic and the effect on "mainstream" audiences has been the most pleasant surprise.
You've recently enjoyed several sold out screenings in the California, what has it felt to be able to share your film with such passionate audiences?
It feels fabulous, thank you. Besides California we have screened and won in many other places such as Byron Bay, Australia, Macon, Georgia, New Orleans, Chicago and Sedona.
I am very influenced by old Hollywood glamour and the great art and beauty that was created here. I love that our film keeps screening in Los Angeles film festival. We have another one in July and more coming, in fabulous legendary theatre. The audiences have been amazing! so many people want to see the film again, and bring friends, which is exciting.
Tell me a little bit about When My Sorrow Died, how did the film come about?
Looking back it seems this project was being cosmically cultivated long before anyone had an idea about a film. Ultimately, I moved into this magical garden second story studio in Hollywood, and our producer Matt Huffman lived below. We became friends, he liked my music, he heard the stories, and when he started his production company we just went for it. The director, Robert Nazar Arjoyan, had used my music in one of his short films and he came on as director, and then a fabulous crew and so on.
"Also the fact that it is music being conjured from the ether, nothingness, air….amazing!"
Why did you decide to make a documentary?
I have been writing the stories and a book for years, I was getting bored with it and felt it was missing the animation of this body/personality. Meanwhile fitting 25 lives into 90 mins with full live performances was a task not to be taken lightly, and it wasn’t.
What were the biggest challenges you faced being part of this film?
The whole process was a challenging. The greatest challenge was overcoming the fear of exposing myself so intimately in such a large medium and format. However the post production was the biggest overall challenge. Editing so much footage into 90 mins and having it make sense, while the subject has many story lines going through their lives...
Would you do another project like this in the future?
Yes. Besides the great extra footage we already have. There are many ideas and offers for continuing the story...
When did you first discover the Theremin?
In my teens on PBS, I saw footage of Leon Theremin and Clara Rockmore and was stunned by her and the instrument. I later heard one played live and was transfixed.
What was it about the Theremin that intrigued you?
The sound of it, when played properly of course. Also the fact that it is music being conjured from the ether, nothingness, air….amazing!
How much of your music is influenced by your Armenian heritage?
I would say a lot of it. The music I create myself inevitably falls into the Armenian Persian scales and melody structures. That being said, I very much enjoy playing the European arias, jazz standards and lounge pieces as well. It’s like having an 8 octave voice, it touches people like a voice, so I am experimenting with many applications from sound healing to EDM music now.
Who have been your biggest inspirations?
I would have to say my aunt who was a professional opera singer and musicologist since she showed me the world of high performance, dedication to one's craft, and the sacred stage. My first "idol" as a child was Maria Callas. She remains a main force in my life and career. Klaus Nomi, Sarah Vaughan, Jimmy Scott, Cecilia Bartoli, Chet Baker, to name a few, and of course the angel Marilyn Monroe who was watching over our film and still "pops up" at every screening, or meeting etc…even in Sedona, and Australia! Don’t get me started.
And finally, what do you want people to take away with them from your film?
I hope they take away what I take away from a great film or performance, excitement to create something of their own. Celebrate individuality, courage, and open minds through truth and beauty.