Born Tehran, 7 Nov 1915; died Los Angeles, 5 March 1994).
Armenian musicologist, folklorist and composer. After moving to Yerevan in 1923 he studied composition at the Yerevan Conservatory. From 1944 he taught harmony at the conservatory and completed a second degree at the Institute of Art of the Armenian Academy of Sciences with Kushnaryov, 1945-8. In 1951 he began taking part in folklore expeditions around Armenia and in 1955 he completed his dissertation at the conservatory on Armenian neumatic (khazer) notation. He joined the staff of the Institute of Arts in 1956 and was appointed professor in 1962 at the conservatory, where he also served intermittently as head of the music theory department until 1991. He was made an Honoured Representative of the Arts of Armenia in 1961. He participated in many congresses both within and outside the former Soviet Union, and was highly regarded as a teacher.
As a leading Armenian musicologist, Atayan had broad interests which included Armenian peasant and urban folklore, medieval monody and the music of Komitas, for which he compiled and edited the complete works in eight volumes (Yerevan, 1960-98). In the course of his work, Atayan systematized folklore elements (such as typology, genre, mode and dialect); he also examined the stylistic evolution, the structure and the issue of ‘authenticity’ of Komitas´s compositions. Atayan´s belief in the unity of the theory, history and ethnology of Armenian culture has informed his research into the legacy of Ekmalian and Tigranyan, whose works were published under Atayan´s guidance. As a composer, Atayan showed a preference for vocal genres, including solo and choral songs, based on national themes and rhythms and arrangements of medieval monody.