I am Servant of Your Voice: Armenian-American soprano Zabelle Panosian, 1891-1986

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The Armenian Studies Program within the Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA presents "I am Servant of Your Voice: Armenian-American soprano Zabelle Panosian, 1891-1986" by musicologist and record producer Ian Nagoski and music collector and researcher Harout Arakelian. This event is co-sponsored by the UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, and the UCLA Armenian Music Program.

Friday, October 14, 2022
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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The soprano Zabelle Panosian (b. Bardizag 1881; d. New York City 1986) was among the most significant voices of the genocide generation of Armenian-Americans. She recorded 11 songs from March 1917 to June 1918 and personally raised millions of dollars for the relief of Armenians through benefit concerts in the late 1910s, regularly collaborating with the tenor Armenag Shah-Mouradian. Her recordings resonated with audiences for decades. She toured Europe successfully and sought out Komitas Vardabet in Paris, publishing a first-hand account of her meeting with him as a devotee of his work.

Panosian’s music and story underwent a period of forgetting during her lifetime and especially since then. But through recent listening to her breathtakingly beautiful, century-old recordings a revival of her legacy is taking place. Non-Armenians all over the world are learning her name and her music and, through them, a story of the Armenian-American audience who cared for her during the wake of the genocide, awakening a previously neglected story of a great American singer.

A newly published biography of Panosian, undertaken by three independent researchers, presents her story along with new, careful restorations of her complete recordings providing an opportunity to look deeply into the life and music of a unique and serious artist who left an amazing body of work. Music researcher and reissue record producer Ian Nagoski who published Panosian’s biography will talk about her life and music along with comments by his co-author Harout Arakelian.

"Zabelle Panosian sang one of the most amazing notes I've ever heard - so much humanity, sorrow, promise, infinite longing. When I write my novel the main character will be Zabelle's note." -David Harrington, Kronos Quartet

"Please listen to the Armenian singer Zabelle Panosian. [Her ‘Groung'] is a secret song that steals away the breath of those who are fortunate enough to hear it." - Suzie Cave

Ian Nagoski is a music researcher and record producer in Baltimore, Maryland. For more than a decade, he has produced scores of reissues of early 20th century recordings in languages other than English for labels including Dust-to-Digital, Tompkins Square, his own Canary Records, and others. His enthusiastic talks have been hosted at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., the Onassis Cultural Center in Athens Greece, the University of Chicago, the University of Pennsylvania, the University of California Los Angeles & Santa Barbara, Carnegie Mellon University, and New York University. He has presented his work in installation at the Museum fur Naturkunde in Berlin, Germany; the Wellcome Center in London, England; the Center for Post-Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and the Peale Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

Harout Arakelian is a video editor, music collector and researcher based in Los Angeles, California. His focus is the Armenian contribution to the landscape of art and culture, with a specific lens on the American experience. He is actively working on collecting every known commercial recording from the 78 rpm era. He contributes articles for the Armenian Museum of America’s Sound Archive. He began a series of live presentations at Abril Bookstore, which only ended due to the Covid pandemic. He’s been a guest lecturer at UCLA and has delivered presentations for the Armenian Institute in London.

Sponsor(s): Armenian Studies Center, Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA Richard Hovannisian Endowed Chair in Modern Armenian History, UCLA Armenian Music Program