On Tuesday, the other Music Journalists and I were able to venture off the USC campus for a highly anticipated field trip. Serj Tankian, a solo artist and the lead singer of System of a Down, held a private listening party at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in downtown Los Angeles for his upcoming studio solo album, “Imperfect Harmonies.” As we took our first steps into MOCA, we were already impressed. The first thing that caught our eyes was the three huge posters of the “Imperfect Harmonies” cover art. The front cover was a photo of Tankian standing with one foot in a grassy field and the other foot in a scene of a city’s destruction, with his arms up high and wide open, almost saying “welcome” to us.
It’s not very common for musicians to have listening parties in art museums, but as soon as I started walking through the gallery of the featured artist, Arshile Gorky, it was obvious why Tankian chose MOCA as the location for his event. Gorky was an Armenian artist who moved to America in the 1920s and Tankian holds his Armenian heritage very close to his heart.
Gorky had fallen into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1948, but his work still continues to have a worldwide influence. His gallery was filled with abstract expressionism pieces that illustrated his emotions from throughout his life. I could almost feel his angst and pain as I walked around to observe each piece while listening to “Imperfect” through provided iPod shuffles and headphones. Most of his work was oil paintings with neutral colors and splashes of bright colors, but there were these specific graphite and crayon sketches that caught my eye. The description said they were a “study for agony,” and the franticness of the scribbles and color splotches easily represented that.
The piano and orchestra elements of “Imperfect” emphasized the distress Gorky wanted to express. A particular line from one of Tankian’s new songs was, “Strangling myself in my silence,” which caught my attention. It made me think about how some people, and maybe in Tankian and Gorky’s case, the Armenian people, are afraid to speak up for themselves, forcing them to feel stuck and controlled. After listening to Tankian’s new album and walking through MOCA, I felt a new appreciation and understanding of the pain and suffering people have had to endure.