Variations on a Dirge of Extermination: “Der Zor Çölünde” and the Armenian Genocide


  • James Carl Osorio University of Wisconsin-Madison



Armenian Genocide, testimony, song, music, performance, counterlistening


In one of his lectures at Northwestern University, Eli Wiesel (1977) stressed that “if the Greeks invented tragedy, the Romans the epistle, and the Renaissance the sonnet, our generation invented a new literature, that of testimony.” However, Wiesel suggested the generation of the Holocaust and most likely have forgotten the eyewitness survivors of the Armenian Genocide. In this article, I focus on a specific kind of testimony that emerged amongst the survivors of the Armenian Genocide: the song-testimony.
Thinking about music and sound is important as the experience of genocide stretches far beyond the visual-oriented notions of such tragedy. It is in this spirit that I write this essay to investigate “Der Zor Çölünde,” a series of song-testimonies that musically charts the experience of Armenians during the Genocide of 1915–1923. I primarily argue that Armenian deportees appropriated the musical and lyrical template of “Der Zor Çölünde” by creating new verses. In doing so, Armenians illustrated and immortalized what they saw, felt, and experienced during the deportations and forced marches. Considering the multifaceted nature of “Der Zor Çölünde,” this essay reimagines the Armenian Genocide experience through the voice(s) of its protagonists. Furthermore, I emphasize the importance and implication of listening to the performances of “Der Zor Çölünde” against the official narratives of genocide denial.

Author Biography

James Carl Osorio, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Currently in his final year as a double master’s student in piano and historical musicology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from the Philippines, his research interests include the cultural and sensory history of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide, sound, listening, modern Germany, twentieth-century history, and Philippine modernity. He is finishing his master’s thesis on carceral listening and the sonic history of Konzentrationslager Dachau. He has presented his research at various national and international conferences in the United States and abroad.




How to Cite

Osorio, J. C. (2023). Variations on a Dirge of Extermination: “Der Zor Çölünde” and the Armenian Genocide. International Journal of Armenian Genocide Studies, 8(2), 35–55.