The Versatile Musician
Armen Bazarian’s commitment to the life of an artist
February 14, 2020 | by Creative Armenia
Creative Armenia-AGBU Fellow Armen Bazarian is a multi-instrumental musician based in Canada whose music and sound designs complement acclaimed film and TV shows. He explains the balance of film scoring with the solo work of standalone compositions.
CA: Your connection to music started at a very young age from Toronto Children’s Chorus. Tell us more about your experience back then. How did it all come about?
AB: When I was five or six, I remember hearing Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy playing on the radio while I was on my way to school. I was dumbfounded by the fact that all these sounds were being created by one man layering his voice over and over. After digging deeper into his discography, I came to appreciate the power held by the human voice — a tool that can express a lush range of human emotions. Unknowingly, McFerrin also introduced me to the idea of vocal looping, a musical technique I would later use in my own artistic practice as a performer.
Soon after this car ride, I auditioned and was accepted into the Toronto Children’s Chorus where I was a chorister until the age of 13. At the time, I think I took the fact that I was getting world-class vocal training for granted. It’s only years later, after having used my voice in a variety of different contexts — from fronting rock bands to experimenting with its limits — that I came to realize how many hours of practice and expertise I had accumulated over those early formative years.
CA: You have been composing for film and TV, among which are several critically-acclaimed films. Can you talk about your works in the film industry?
AB: Thanks to all the varied experiences I’ve had in the world of music production, and composition, I’ve become quite a versatile sound-maker. While working at Apollo Studios in Toronto, my skills were always being challenged and developed. The nature of this job required me to borrow from a variety of different pallets and always be ready to adapt my skills as required for a project. The versatility I gained in the advertising world has helped me broaden my horizons in the world of film and TV. Every project I take on presents a new set of challenges. My goal as a composer is to create a unique and engaging score that complements and facilitates the story being told by the filmmakers.
CA: Tell us about your daily creative routine.
AB: Although I work as a freelance musician, I try my absolute best to adhere to a fairly structured schedule. I usually wake up at 7 AM and meditate for 40 minutes. After a quick shower, I head to the studio where I do a bit of reading accompanied by strong coffee, to ease into the creative day. My first window of creativity is usually from 9 AM to noon. This time is spent on my songs or on a specific project that I’ve been hired to work on. After a lunch break and a head-clearing walk, I get back to work and put in another 3 hours of creative work. In addition, exercise greatly helps me maintain a well-balanced internal life. The better I am at creating a healthy psychological space, the easier it is to maintain a disciplined and sustainable creative practice. Finally, I usually leave a couple of hours in the evening before bedtime to send emails and take care of administrative tasks. Rinse and repeat…
CA: You have also completed a master’s degree in Psychology, deepening your understanding of how music affects the brain. Why did you decide to pursue this degree and what did it give you creatively?
AB: I’ve always been very interested in Psychology, specifically mental illness and drug addiction. In high school, I volunteered at a psychiatric hospital where I was exposed to a wide variety of individuals dealing with mental health issues. At university, I worked as a research assistant to Daniel Levitin, the author of the best selling book This Is Your Brain on Music. There, I studied the relationship between different musical stimuli and how they can affect our tolerance to pain. The arrangement I had with the lab was an unconventional one in that I was given after-hours access to Dr. Levitin’s state of the art recording studio in exchange for the work I was doing as a research assistant in his lab. Thanks to this special arrangement, I gained a lot of knowledge related to music production and sound engineering. It was almost as if I was in a sound engineering program while being in a psychology program.
CA: Tell us something important you’ve learned from working with musicians and filmmakers in Canada, Armenia, and worldwide.
AB: Good art sees no borders. I’m super grateful to be working in a field that connects me with fellow artists who are driven by the same desire — to be unrelenting in the pursuit of creating the best art possible. I think it takes a lot of courage to commit to the life of an artist. Between the financial precariousness and the uncertainty laden in its path, it’s only in collaborating with artists from all around the world that one begins to appreciate the fact that the “struggle” we deal with as artists is universal and perhaps an integral part of the creative process.
CA: Have you decided how you are going to use your Creative Armenia - AGBU Fellowship?
AB: I’m going to use the grant aspect of this fellowship to facilitate some professional publicity opportunities related to the release of my debut EP entitled Sight Lines. Likewise, I would like to tap into the vast network of artists and professionals at my disposal to gain professional insights that will help push me forward as an artist.
CA: What is your long-term vision for your creative career?
AB: Two-tiered. First, as an artist, I’m aiming to be an internationally touring act with a team consisting of a booking agent, manager, and eventually some kind of label representation. Second, I would like to continue fostering my skills as a composer and sound designer for film and TV, acquiring bigger and bigger compositional opportunities.