NEW YORK, NY—Musician and writer Raffi Joe Wartanian has launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help finish Critical Distance, a new album of 10 compositions on guitar, oud and mandolin. Wartanian recorded the album in Los Angeles this summer with Grammy Award-winning percussionist MB Gordy and renowned bassist Jake Leckie.
The innovative sound of Critical Distance emerges from a musical conversation between the pillars of the composer’s musical background. An independent artist, Wartanian describes the project as, “Armenian folk meets Appalachian bluegrass at a tango bar in my hometown of Baltimore.” A one-minute sample of Critical Distance can be heard on YouTube or Soundcloud. The album has already received support from string manufacturer La Bella Strings, AGBU’s Performing Arts Department, Creative Armenia and a growing list of contributors.
Critical Distance features an array of novel approaches that engage various musical traditions. For example, the composition Blues in O uses the oud to perform a blues piece with microtonal and odd-meter embellishment to complicate the sound. Another track, Appalachatiolia, fuses the 7/8 time-signature with banjo-inspired guitar fingerpicking. Wartanian attributes inspiration for this project to his teachers, oudist Ara Dinkjian and guitarist Miroslav Tadic, who have expanded possibilities for folk traditions in their own pathbreaking careers.
Since completing his first album Pushkin Street (2013), Wartanian has kept busy with numerous ventures in music and beyond. On the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, Raffi created a documentary about a concert in Istanbul commemorating the massacres on April 24. He also produced a three-volume textbook of Armenian oud music by the late Komitas Conservatory Professor Mihran Demirdjian (1950-2016) and organized a fundraiser concert and arts event at Abril Bookstore in Glendale, CA that raised funds and awareness for the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
“Critical Distance was created during periods of deep personal searching,” Wartanian wrote on the campaign page, “as I found myself living and creating between New York City and Los Angeles while longing for Baltimore—my birthplace and first home. During this period, I also visited Armenia, Lebanon and Turkey, absorbing the cultures that shaped my family for the past three generations. The resulting music mirrors this reflective mood through acoustic instrumentation, uncluttered arrangements and a diversity of styles. The album is 40 minutes of new music that I am thrilled to share with you!”