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Folklore of the Silicon Mountains: Music, Tech, and the Future in 21st-Century Armenia

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Screenshot from "Last Night of Komitas," augmented reality experience based on the painting by Sarkis Muradyan (1956). ARLOOPA mobile app, 2022.

The Promise Armenian Institute at UCLA presents "Folklore of the Silicon Mountains: Music, Tech, and the Future in 21st-Century Armenia" by Dr. Alyssa Mathias. Dr. Melissa Bilal will provide discussant commentary followed by Q&A. This lecture is co-sponsored by the UCLA Armenian Music Program.

Thursday, May 12, 2022
10:00 AM - 12:00 PM (Pacific Time)

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Since the decentralization of Armenia’s cultural sector in the 1990s, Armenian traditional artists have found unlikely patrons in industries seemingly unrelated to cultural heritage. This talk focuses on the surprising prevalence of traditional music in Armenia’s burgeoning information technology sector, where musicians teach folk songs to young coding students, consult on mobile apps, and lead circle dances at industry trade shows. Based on fieldwork in Armenia, Russia, and the United States, Dr. Mathias analyzes the cultural significance of traditional music in tech, asking what it reveals about transnational development, Soviet legacies, and Armenian visions for the future.


Alyssa Mathias’ research focuses on the possibilities and challenges of arts-based development in the Republic of Armenia. She is also working on a multigenerational study of silence in the US Armenian diaspora. A violinist and singer, Mathias earned her PhD in Ethnomusicology from UCLA and her BA in Music from the University of Chicago. 


Melissa Bilal is the associate director of the UCLA Armenian Music Program and lecturer in the Department of Ethnomusicology. Previously a distinguished research fellow at CNES, before UCLA, she was an assistant professor in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University of Armenia, where she continues serving as a core team member developing the Gender Studies minor program. Bilal studied Sociology (B.A. and M.A.) at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul and received her Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago. Her recent publications include “Lullabies and the Memory of Pain: Armenian Women’s Remembrance of the Past in Turkey” (Dialectical Anthropology 2019, 43/2); Voice Imprints: Recordings of Russian Armenian POWs in German Camps, 1916-1918 (Berlin Staatliche Museen, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Forthcoming 2019); My Heart is like those Ruined Houses: Gomidas Vartabed’s Musical Legacy (with Burcu Yıldız, 2019).