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Hamparsum Limonciyan

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Subject: Music of Turkey, Selim III, Ottoman classical music, Hammamizade İsmail Dede Efendi, Armenian chant
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Hamparsum Limonciyan

Hampartsoum Limondjian
Համբարձում Լիմոնջեան
Background information
Born 1768
Origin Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Died June 29, 1839
Constantinople, Ottoman Empire
Genres Armenian chant, Armenian classical music, Musical Notation
Occupations Musical theorist, Composer, Singer
Instruments singing, violin, tanbur

Hampartsoum Limondjian (Armenian: Համբարձում Լիմոնջեան) (1768–June 29, 1839) was an Armenian composer of Armenian church and classical music and musical theorist who developed the Hampartsoum notation system. The system was the main music notation for Armenian and Ottoman classical music until modern times and is still used by the Armenian Apostolic Church.

The name Համբարձում, pronounced Hampartsum in Western Armenian or Hambardzum in Eastern Armenian, means "Ascension". Hampartsoum Limondjian is referred to as Baba Hamparsum (Father Hampartsoum) in classical Ottoman music circles.


Early life

Hampartsoum Limondjian was born in 1768 on Çukur Sokak in the Beyoğlu district of Constantinople. His father Sarkis and his mother Gaderina, who had recently moved to Constantinople from Harput, were poor, and could only send their son to primary school. After primary school, Hamparsum Limonciyan started working for a tailor. A lover of music, Hampartsoum Limondjian started attending Armenian churches and started receiving music lessons within the church.[1]

Marriage and children

Hampartsoum Limondjian married at the age of 27 and had six children, one of whom, Zenop Limondjian (1810–1866) also became a musician and played the ney.[2]

Musician, composer, member of court, theoretician, master

Hampartsoum Limondjian took lessons in Armenian music from various Armenian musicians like Krikor Karasakalyan (1736–1808) and Zenne Bogos (1746–1826).[1] He soon came under the patronage of another Armenian - Hovhannes Çelebi Düzyan, Director of the Ottoman Imperial Mint, after which he could devote himself fully to music and continued his music education in the Düzyan family mansion in the Kuruçeşme district of Constantinople.[3] After serving as a chorist in the Armenian Church, he was made Precentor (first singer) and chief musician.[4]

Around this time, Hampartsoum Limondjian started attending mevlevihanes, places of gathering for dervishes of the Mevlevi order, to learn Ottoman music. In the Beşiktaş Mevlevihanesi, he took lessons from Dede Efendi, one of the greatest Ottoman composers. He was then accepted at the court of Ottoman Sultan Selim III, himself a composer whose music is still performed today, and was a regular member of the music circles of his day.[2]

Sultan Selim III was concerned about the lack of a comprehensive notation system for music and encouraged members of his court to work on a notation system that would be easy to learn and to transcribe in. Two music systems were developed as a result and presented to Selim III, by Hamparsum Limonciyan and Abdulbaki Nasir Dede. Abdulbaki Nasir Dede's system was based on the abjad system, however differs in the ordering of the notes. Hampartsoum Limondjian's notation that he developed in two years between 1813 and 1815 was preferred over the other and became the dominant notation for Turkish and Armenian music.[1]

He worked as a master of music and educated a number of Turkish and Armenian musicians of his day.[2] Besides being known as a leading composer, he was a famous vocal performer and played the violin and the tanbur. 31 of his Armenian hymns, composed with Armenian lyrics in the Turkish melodic system (makam) survive to this day. He has composed a large number of Turkish music pieces, most of which are regularly performed today.

Death and afterward

Hampartsoum Limondjian died at the age of 71 in his house in the Hasköy district of Constantinople. He is buried in the Surp Agop Armenian Cemetery.

Hamparsum notation

Using his own system, Hampartsoum Limondjian transcribed most of 18th century Turkish music compositions in a collection of six books, which he presented to Selim III.[2] Only two of the originals survive to date and are preserved at the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory Library. As the dominant notation for Turkish and Armenian music, the Hamparsum notation was instrumental in the transcription and survival of thousands of pieces of music, and was surpassed only in modern times in its use for Turkish classical music. The notation system is still in use by the Armenian Apostolic Church.[2]

The Hampartsoum notation uses symbols derived from an older notation called խազ khaz used by the Armenian Church.[2] Pitch is indicated by one of forty-five symbols. There are fourteen notes per octave over a range of three octaves and a minor second; a tilde is used in place of a sharp and also to raise or lower a note an octave. All twelve notes of the Western chromatic scale are represented, but in the case of F-sharp (fa diyez in Turkish) and B-natural (si), two enharmonic symbols are used for each, because Middle Eastern music uses microtonal intervals called commas. Above each note is written another symbol, marking its duration. Other symbols are used for rests, repeats and phrases.



  • Jäger, Ralf Martin: Türkische Kunstmusik und ihre handschriftlichen Quellen aus dem 19. Jahrhundert, Eisenach 1996, ISBN 3-88979-072-0

External links

  • TrueType font for the Hamparsum notation)
  • Article on Hamparsum Limonciyan, Bolsohays-Istanbul Armenians (Turkish)
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