LOS ANGELES—Grammy-Award winning and multi-platinum recording artist, songwriter, composer, poet, and visual artist Serj Tankian has teamed up with non-profit cultural organization Creative Armenia to release “7 Notes Challenge,” a compilation album highlighting some of the most notable submissions from a songwriting challenge posed to artists worldwide. The 17 song album is now available on all major streaming, and download, platforms across the globe.
The unique experiment was originally announced back in October of 2017, with a basic premise and a $5,000 prize.
“The challenge is simple. You’ve got these seven notes that you have to start with, “explained Tankian. “Your first seven notes of your composition have to be these seven notes. You can make a jazz song, a rock song, a symphony…whatever type of music that you want, but it can’t be longer than three minutes. The rest is up to you.”
When the submission deadline was reached, Creative Armenia, who hosted the competition via a website, received over 2,000 unique submissions in a plethora of genres from all corners of the world. Tankian and a panel of other notable judges — SOAD band mate/bassist Shavo Odadjian, Sebu Simonian of Capital Cities, acclaimed jazz pianist Tigran Hamasyan, Dean of Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA Judith Smith and honored composer Vahagn Hayrapetyan — were then tasked to listen through the overwhelming number of submissions to select a winner.
That they did, and in fact, they ended up crowning two winning submissions — splitting the $5,000 prize equally.
So many great compositions remained. In an effort to showcase some of the worthy songs, the idea of the “7 Notes Challenge” compilation album was born, to bring awareness to a variety of artists taking a simple premise plus a few notes and turning them into a cornucopia of musical expression.
Tankian further explains: “All of the inspiration is out there for us to take. If you’re an artist, you paint it; if you’re a musician, you compose it. The skill comes from the presentation. That’s what we learn over the years, how to best present this. This music, this muse, so that it’s palpable, it’s original, it’s appreciated and emotive.”
Mexico’s Alpha Lighting System, with their prog-rocking instrumental jam “life.exe” and Armenian Mariam Petrosian with her soulful croon on “Here I Come” were voted by the judging panel as the respective winners of the $5,000 prize of the original challenge and are also present on the compilation album.
“I can say that ‘7 Notes Challenge’ wasn’t really a challenge to me but rather a very exciting and enjoyable process that sparked my muse back to me, for which I am very grateful to Serj Tankian and Creative Armenia,” explains Petrosian. “I am very proud of ‘Here I Come,’ as it feels like I’ve collaborated with Serj Tankian himself. Thank you Serj, for those beautiful, mysterious and truly cosmic 7 notes.”
These two very distinct tracks stylistically bookend the wide spectrum of wonderfully diverse, experimental and lush songs from the rest of the contributing talented musicians that make up the 7 Notes Challenge compilation.
Serj Tankian is a Grammy winning and multi-platinum recording artist, singer, songwriter, poet, visual artist, activist and composer. An Armenian born in Lebanon and re-rooted in Los Angeles, Serj was introduced to the melding of cultures, ideas and ideals from a very young age.
Tankian got his first opportunity to compose for film in 2006, when he was tapped by famed director William Friedkin to come up with a theme for his psychological thriller “Bug.” In the 8 years to follow, Serj was able to squeeze in a few shorter length compositions for film and TV projects in the midst of extensive touring cycles and solo album releases. With a need to be more creative with his musical talents, Tankian made a conscious decision in late 2014 to focus more on scoring for film, TV and video games. In 2015, he was brought on by independent film makers Garin Hovannisian and Alec Mouhibian to score “1915,” starring Angela Sarafyan and Simon Abkarian. “1915” marked Serj’s first full film score, and he was intent on doing more. Over the past few years, additional credits include composing the film score for The Last Inhabitant, an original composition for Ilya Naishuller’s “Hardcore Henry” and video game musical scores for “Midnight Star” and its sequel “Renegade,” which were created by one of the chief creators of the famed Halo game franchise.
In 2017, he also recorded a modern version of Armenian folk song “Sari Siroun Yar” along with the Authentic Light Orchestra for “The Promise,” directed by Terry George, starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac. Tankian was also brought on by Survival Pictures, the producers of “The Promise,” to serve as an Executive Music Consultant on the film. Also in the same year, Serj Tankian composed original musical scores for two feature length films, “Intent To Destroy” by award winning documentarian Joe Berlinger and “Furious—The Legend Of Kolovrat,” an epic Russian historical fantasy film set in the 13th century. Both soundtracks were released by Lakeshore Records. 2018 saw Tankian compose the musical score for acclaimed director Alexander Kott’s 2018 film “Spitak,” the deeply moving drama about the 1988 Armenian earthquake that claimed over 20,000 lives. His most recent trek in the studio was to create the musical score for “I Am Not Alone,” the thrilling first hand documentary about the peaceful political revoluton in Armenia, which had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival just recently.
Early in his musical career, Serj found an outlet as the rabble–rousing lead singer and songwriter of the largely successful rock band System of a Down, a band that has reached into the hearts and minds of millions of people relaying multiple messages of love, awareness and activism. System of a Down has 5 studio album releases, three of which debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, and has also been nominated for four Grammy Awards and snagged one in 2006 for ‘Best Hard Rock Performance’ for their song “B.Y.O.B.”
Tankian has released 6 albums of his own solo material, beginning with 2007’s chart-topping hard rock album “Elect the Dead” and it’s symphonic counterpart “Elect the Dead Symphony.” His sophomore solo album “Imperfect Harmonies” was released in 2010, followed by “Harakiri” in 2012. 2013 saw two distinct releases from Serj, with the first being the critically acclaimed “Orca Symphony No. 1,” released in June of that year, followed up with the very unique “Jazz-iz Christ” one month later.