In 1932, he won the Conservatory's Samuel Endicott prize for composing a symphony entitled, Sunset Symphony. In July 1934, he travelled to Finland to meet with Jean Sibelius, a renowned composer of that country.
In 1936, he attended a performance in Boston by the dance troupe of Uday Shankar, an Indian dance troupe which developed his interest in Indian music. During the period of 1930s, he was a part of FDR’s federal WPA’s Federal Music Project.
He developed an interest in Armenian culture and music in 1940 and worked as an organist for St. James Armenian Apostolic Church in Watertown, Massachusetts where he remained for the next ten years.
During the middle part of 1940, along with his two friends who were interested in Indian classical music, he used to discuss about spirituality and musical matters. During this period, he learnt to play sitar.
In 1940s, the members of the immigrant Armenian community namely the Friends of Armenian Music Committee helped him by providing sponsorship for several of his music concerts in New York.
In 1946, he composed Etchmiadzin, an Armenian themed opera which was commissioned by a local Armenian church. In the year 1948 he joined the Boston Conservatory where he taught till 1951.
In 1951, he moved to the New York City where he became a full-time composer. He also worked for Voice of America where he joined as script writer, director, composer and musical consultant for the Near East and Transcaucasian sections. He lost this job when Dwight D. Eisenhower became the U.S. President in 1953.
In 1954, he received Guggenheim Fellowships for his composition and composed music for Broadway play The Flowering Peach the same year.
His biggest breakthrough came in 1955 for his Symphony No. 2, Mysterious Mountain which was premiered by Leopold Stokowski. In the same year, MGM Records released a number of his works.
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From 1956 to 1958, at the request of one of his admirers, Howard Hanson, he taught at the Eastman School of Music.
From 1959 to 1963, as part of his research trips, he visited India, Hawaii, Japan and South Korea. He studied Carnatic music in Madras (India) and learnt playing Veena. Simultaneously, he also created a score for Carnatic orchestra Nagooran. All India Radio broadcast this work in 1960.
In 1962, he remained busy in studying Japanese gagaku music. Based on his knowledge of Japanese music, he created Fantasy on Japanese Wodprints, a concerto.
In 1963, he came up with his second ballet score for Martha Graham, namely, Circe. He also established a record label to release his own works namely Poseidon Society.
In 1973, he created Myth of a Voyage, his third and final ballet composition for Martha Graham.
In 1981, he composed scores for Indonesian gamelan orchestra at the request of Lou Harrison.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married six times. Around 1934, he got married to Martha Mott Davis with whom he had a daughter namely Jean Christina Hovhaness. In 1947, he married his third wife Serafina Ferrante , a dancer. He married for the sixth time in 1977.
He passed away in Seattle due to a prolonged stomach ailment. He was survived by his wife coloratura soprano Hinako Fujihara Hovhaness and daughter Jean.
The archives of his scores, recordings, photographs and correspondence are available at Harvard University, University of Washington, Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and Yerevan’s State Museum of Arts and Literature in Armenia