“I’m not a historian. I’m a musician who’s obsessed by cultural history, and environment, and filling in gaps.”
The phenomenal new book, Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian (SUP/Redwood Press), traces the history of an Armenian family from the mountainous woods of Anatolia to suburban NJ. Author Sato Moughalian joins the show to talk about her inspiration to write the life of her grandfather, ceramic tile artist David Ohannessian, the chronicle her family’s exodus through the Armenian Genocide, and how she had to prepare herself to visit Turkey as part of her research. We get into the multi-generational process of coping with trauma, the horrors of the Armenian Genocide and its ongoing denial, how her grandfather wound up helping retile the Dome of the Rock (while bringing Ottoman tile art to Jerusalem), and the way oral storytelling can capture styles that differ from family to family. We also talk through he music background (Sato’s an accomplished flutist), the creative community of NYC, her seven-year period of introspection and grief-work, and whether she’s considering another book, now that she’s got her first volume under her belt. Give it a listen! And go buy Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian!
“Grief and trauma were not the only things I inherited from my family.”
“In my family, oral storytelling was the way history was passed down from one generation to the next.”
“There’s an audience for music as a religious activity.”
About our Guest
Sato Moughalian is an award-winning flutist in New York City and Artistic Director of Perspectives Ensemble, founded in 1993 to explore and contextualize works of composers and visual artists. Since 2007, Ms. Moughalian has also traveled to Turkey, England, Israel, Palestine, and France to uncover the traces of her grandfather’s life and work, has published articles, and gives talks on the genesis of Jerusalem’s Armenian ceramic art. Her new book is Feast of Ashes: The Life and Art of David Ohannessian.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at Sato’s home on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of Ms. Moughalian by XXX. It’s on my instagram.