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Anahid Ajemian and George Avakian, during the first tour of Europe by Anahid and her sister, the pianist Maro Ajemian, in 1949. Photograph by Lionel Galstaun.

Music for Moderns: The Partnership of George Avakian and Anahid Ajemian

Contemporary American music of the mid-20th century enjoyed a somewhat golden age: Multiple generations of jazz masters, such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Dave Brubeck, and Sonny Rollins, were popular and active simultaneously, expanding the music's horizons while still producing older styles. At the same time, a new coterie of modern composers, including John Cage, Lou Harrison, Frank Wigglesworth, Alan Hovhaness, and Ben Weber, were pushing the boundaries of what music could be.These two streams of musical modernism met in the marriage of the record producer George Avakian and the violinist Anahid Ajemian.

Active for over 60 years, Avakian in many ways helped redefine the record industry of his era and ushered to the world an enormous variety of popular and artistic music, often both at the same time. Anahid Ajemian, as well as her sister, pianist Maro Ajemian, dedicated her artistic life to nurturing and performing contemporary music, from Cage and Henry Cowell to Weber and, later in her career, Elliott Carter.

This exhibition is derived largely from George Avakian's and Anahid Ajemian's personal archives of photographs, recordings, memorabilia, oral histories, writings, letters, and other papers. It explores both of their careers and, through them, some of the most important musicians of all time. It also provides a unique way of viewing the important musical developments of their era through the lens of both artistic and commercial recording considerations, as well the development of the recording industry as a whole.

June 27th, 2016 - September 24th, 2016 New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

From the Exhibition

George Avakian in Tbilisi with the Benny Goodman Orchestra tour

George Avakian in Tbilisi during the Benny Goodman Orchestra’s tour of the Soviet Union, 1962.


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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts gratefully acknowledges the leadership support of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman. Additional support for exhibitions has been provided by Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg and the Miriam and Harold Steinberg Foundation.