Aleksandar Damnjanović was born in Belgrade. He studied composition in the class of Vasilije Mokranjac and conducting in the class of Živojin Zdravković at the Faculty of Music in Belgrade. At the same time Damnjanović became acquainted with Byzantine music through collaboration with Dimitrije Stefanović at the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences and took private classes of conducting with Borislav Pašćan. He is one of the founders of the orchestra Belgrade Youth Symphony orchestra (today the Borislav Pašćan youth symphony orchestra). Damjanović also participated to the circle of composers who were active in the Students’ Cultural Center in Belgrade.
After completing first year of studies in Belgrade, he went to Paris in 1979 and began his studies of composition at the Paris Conservatory. He graduated with Premier Prix à l’unanimité in 1983. From 1983 to 1986 Damjanović studied choir conducting at Paris Opera, and afterwards worked as conductor of the opera choir at Rens (Bretagne), as well as the principal guest conductor of the Orchestra of the City of Rens (now Orchestra of the Province of Bretagne). His compositions have been commissioned by the French Ministry of Culture, and his works have been performed in France, Italy and England.
He was awarded the First Prize at the International Composers’ Competition André Jolivet in 1987 in Paris for the composition Aeolian Harps. He was the winner of the composers’ concourse ARTAMA held in Czech Republic in 1998, with the composition Christmas Carol. He was appointed the director of conservatory Hector Berlioz in Paris Region. In 2001 he founded the Voix Melées Festival, where he regularly invites vocal artists from Serbia and worldwide.
Since 2001 his music has been performed in Belgrade again, on festivals such as Bemus or Choirs among Frescoes, performed by the Mokranjac Choir, Collegium Musicum, Castagnieri Quartet, Saint George Strings, etc. In February 2003 Jugokoncert produced a concert of Damnjanović’s music at the National Museum in Belgrade.
Water and Vine (Whence your smile…)
Whence your smile was the working title of the composition Water and Wine. The title indicated the frescos of the Kalenić Monastery, and the poem of the same name by Vasko Popa, whose verses “Whence my smile on our face angel brother…” I have transformed into “Whence your smile ..” This composition is the first in a cycle of five pieces entitled The Fresco. Each of them refers to a single fresco painting from Serbian mediaeval monasteries. The composition Water and Wine refers to the fresco Wedding in Cana in the Kalenić Monastery, which depicts the glorious episode from the Gospels inm which Christ turns water in to wine. The composition is a free paraphrase of the melody of the first Octoechos voice according to Stevan Mokranjc’s transcription.