Laudamus: Music of Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff
At the heart of Gurdjieff's teaching lies the assertion that man's conscience, submerged in his subconsciousness, can be awakened to participate in his daily life, and thus become the instrument for his transformation. There are four sources of this teaching - writings, sacred dance, sacred music, and group work. All are designed to contribute to this aim. The particular function of the sacred music is to open the feelings in the listener. Gurdjieff makes the distinction between our ordinary subjective emotions, based on the polarities of attraction and repulsion and upon attachment to the world around us; and the higher emotions, which have no opposites. These are available to our experience, but they are subtle and need to be approached with receptivity. The music itself comes from many sources which Gurdjieff encountered during his search for knowledge in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa at the end of the nineteenth century. As a boy, Gurdjieff had been trained as a chorister, and could express himself on the guitar, the harmonica, and the harmonium. He also had a remarkable aural memory. Together with the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, he was responsible for over 300 works between 1918 and 1927, mostly written at the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man at Fontainebleau, near Paris. The process of composition always took place in front of an audience. Gurdjieff would whistle or play a melody on the piano, and de Hartmann would put it into western notation. Very often these melodies, seemingly simple, had quite irregular rhythms and used exotic scales and modes. It took a tour de force to come to a finished product, on the spot. In addition to the sacred music, this CD features the early classical output of Thomas de Hartmann. Born in 1885 in the Ukraine, de Hartmann was already a rising star in the Russian musical world by the turn of the 20th century. His Six Pieces (1902), three of which are recorded here, were published by Jurgensen Edition in his seventeenth year. By 1906, when he was 21, his ballet The Scarlet Flower had been performed in front of the Czar, with Nijinsky, Fokine and Pavlova in the cast. In 1908 de Hartmann traveled to Germany to study conducting with Felix Mottl, a pupil of Wagner. Here he joined the avant-garde, and met his lifelong friend, the painter Wassily Kandinsky. Together they collaborated on the Yellow Sound, a ballet scenario exploring the relationship between sound and color. De Hartmann met Gurdjieff in December 1916, and this marked a turning point in his life. He had long been convinced that in order to grow as a composer it was necessary for his inner life to deepen. In Gurdjieff's teaching he found the means he had been looking for. His time with Gurdjieff is vividly described in his book, Our Life With Mr. Gurdjieff. In 1929, after more than 12 years with Gurdjieff, de Hartmann left him and moved to Garches, outside Paris. Here he resumed his classical style of composition, and maintained contact with a number of the great artists of the day, including the cellist Pablo Casals and Alexander Schneider of the Budapest String Quartet. After the war he moved to the United States. He died in 1956, on the eve of a performance of his works at the New York Town Hall. De Hartmann's output includes four symphonies; concerti for piano, violin, cello, flute, harp and double-bass; the opera Esther, vocal works, and a large number of pieces for solo piano. His style is eclectic, from the early Romanticism reminiscent of Schumann and Chopin, to the Russian style of Mussorgsky, with experiments in bitonality in the late 1940s. Much of the later output is intended to express the ideas of Gurdjieff's teaching through music. Titles such as The Music of the Stars: "Look into the depths of eternity" (Nocturne, Op. 84) and the Second Sonata Op. 82, dedicated to P.D. Ouspensky and the idea of the Fourth Dimension, give us glimpses of what de Hartmann had in mind. Elan Sicroff studied piano with Jeaneane Dowis at the Juilliard School. In 1972 he met J.G. Bennett, one of the leading exponents of Gurdjieff's teaching. He attended Bennett's second Basic Course at Sherborne, Gloucestershire, in England. This was a ten-month intensive training in the practical application of Gurdjieff's Fourth Way teaching. Sicroff worked with Mme de Hartmann from 1975 to 1979. Along with a few other musicians he was given the task of making the music of Thomas de Hartmann known. Mme de Hartmann was particularly interested in transmitting an understanding of her husband's classical style, and she went to great pains to forge in Sicroff an emotional connection to this music. Since that time Sicroff has performed many concerts around the world, playing the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music alongside the classical works of de Hartmann, and sometimes including the works of other composers whose music expresses an inner search.