Notes From Hairenik
September 23, 2007
Tonight I was walking down towards Republic Square to meet some people, and on the way I heard some music coming from there accompanied by some pastel-colored lights. The closer I came the more clearly I could see gushing streams of water flowing 50 feet in the air. There were thousands of people standing in the area in front of the National Museum, and I immediately realized that the fountains had finally been turned on again.

I have been complaining privately to friends about the idiocy surrounding the motive to replace the fountains in the middle of tourist season, especially when they were repaired a few years ago. The Republic Square fountains were famous, especially for their "singing" effect, as by some kind of magic the jets would react in the pressure applied to the water accordingly to the tempos and trebles of the music played through speakers affixed to poles on both sides of the pool. It has always been a major crowd-drawing attraction not just to foreigners but to everyone living in this country, whether residents of Yerevan or people passing through. So I was irate that some decision was made at Yerevan City Hall to start work on the fountains in May of all times. The work should not have taken more than 30 days. But each time I walked past the fountain area I would see a maximum of two people roaming around there, which proved to me at least that there didn't seem a great urgency to finish whatever the hell it was that they were doing. Hamlet at the time told me that the work would be completed in September as he heard on the TV.

So this evening's show proved that for once the authorities actually lived up to their word regarding the completion of an announced construction project. I walked around the square to the far side standing in front of the "Post Office building" as I call it to have a more panoramic view. There are about three rows of nozzles that spurt water under tremendously high pressure, from what I saw. The rear-most row has probably 8-10 jets spaced about 5 feet or so from each other. The two front rows had nozzles spread farther apart, but one cluster of jets was situated on both the left and right sides as before with the water ascending and descending along with the music. On the far-most left and right sides were super nozzles spraying water in terrifically high arches towards the center of the pool.

The singing fountains as they have always been known were put to the test with fancy lighting and epic-sounding music. When I arrived there were some national songs being played with the lights on the water creating a flowing, shimmering Armenian flag. Then a 15-minute long bizarre medley of songs by Aznavour began. I say bizarre because there were several obscure songs incorporated into it, some of which only those that could ever manage to collect his near 100 recordings released during the last 50 years would recognize. I have the majority of his recordings on both compact disc and LP, considering myself an Aznavour Aficionado, and I had never heard some of the songs. That was followed by more French music, probably due to the "Arménie Mon Amie" sentiment that has been invoked by France in recent years. I approached the fountains to get a closer look before I was off to another destination.

Now I am a traditionalist, and I hate change when it is not necessary even in the slightest. The fountains as they were before were fantastic; they always amazed me, and it was always a pleasure day or night to visit the square, which is my favorite place in all of Yerevan anyway. There was nothing wrong with the fountains, they did not need to be replaced or revamped or whatever, but the "out with the old, in with the new" mentality cannot be stopped anywhere in this city unfortunately. So I was irate when they dismantled the fountains, I didn't want the classic image and inspiration I absorbed from them to disappear.

The fountains I saw this evening were by all means nothing like the Soviet-era ones that I loved so much. They were more extravagant, over-the-top, and actually out of place, something that you would see at a grand world event that takes place every four years. The water was moving in disturbingly unnatural ways for one thing, sometimes spurting upwards in strange funnels or gently spewing creating a wall of pseudo-mist. And the jets on the pedestal were not working for whatever reason, which was the showpiece of the entire fountains to begin with. I have no idea whether they will be installed at a later time or if someone will decide to open a shawerma stand directly on the pedestal, which at this point would not surprise me.

It's hard to say how people will react to the new fountains. I am sure purists like myself will pine for the old ones, while those who have heard that the new fountains are constructed with the "latest European technology" will be assuaged. While I walked past the spectators I heard someone describe the fountains as being a "madhouse." Nevertheless, I must admit that the fountains were impressive to say the least.

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Anonymous Narbey Derbekyan said...
I was there on the 23rd and saw the fountain and light show. They were playing Khatchaturian when I got there.
I saw it again yesterday and they used the a different fountain which generated a semicircle of mist. They projected images on to it but I didn't see it clearly. Might have been my vantage point.

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