Journeys to Unreachable PlacesG. I. Gurdjieff's mystical music meets the Whirling Dervishes
George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff (?-1949) is one of the most colorful and enigmatic personalities in the spiritual scene of the early
20th century. Between 1924 and 1927, Gurdjieff created many works for piano - together with the composer and pianist
Thomas de Hartmann -, for the most part based upon his spiritual and musical impressions brought back from his journeys.
«I had a very difficult and trying time with this music. Mr Gurdjieff sometimes whistled or played on the piano with one
finger a very complicated sort of melody—as are all Eastern melodies, although they seem at first to be monotonous.
To grasp this melody, to transcribe it in European notation, required a tour de force.» (Thomas de Hartmann).
Thomas Alexandrovitch de Hartmann (1885-1956) was born near Kiev, graduated from the conservatory of St. Petersburg in
1908, studied with Felix Mottl, then musical director of the Munich Opera House, until 1912 and was a member of the artist
community «Blauer Reiter» together with his friend Vassily Kandinsky. In 1916, he accompanied Gurdjieff on an
adventurous journey that finally led them to France. There he worked as a composer and became a close friend of
Pablo Casals. After Gurdjieff's death he promoted his teachings in the USA.
Gurdjieff's teachings contain mystical elements of Sufism, Buddhism, Christianity, Gnosis, Zoroastrism and the Cabbala.
His summons was radical: «Awake! Awake from your unsuspected hypnotic sleep, rise to awareness and conscience!»
Exactly this call is one of the most important foundations of Sufism. In 1920, Gurdjieff moved into an Istanbul apartment
together with his pupil and musical partner, Thomas de Hartmann, which lay in direct neighborhood to the Mevlevi
Dervishes' meeting hall in the quarter of Galata. Almost every day they witnessed this Sufi order's ritual of music and
dance, and thus absorbed decisive spiritual and musical impressions that later became part of their ritual choreographies
and piano compositions.
Even though some of them are even composed for piano and obbligato frame drum (bendir), the «Danses Derviche»,
«Chants et Danses Sayyid» and «Mélodies Orientales» are no slavish imitations of traditional ethnic music.
Gurdjieff and de Hartmann transformed the archetypes of ancient Eastern spiritual and musical traditions for the West's
archetypical instrument, the piano, in order to answer questions that can only be faced by East and West jointly.
Our «Retour de Voyage» unites piano, traditional music from the Mevlevi Sema and the whirling of the Dervishes from
the Golden Horn, that had inspired Gurdjieff and de Hartmann already a century ago, in an East-Western ritual for the
cathedral of post-modern faith: the concert hall.
«… great interest and enthusiastic applause … a glance into a distant yet very near world.»
Thomas Ahnert, Saale Zeitung (Germany), 11.01.2011
«Part of the audience lost themselves in the exotic music, while others marvelled at this insight into an unfamiliar
religious world. … the applause lasted several minutes.» Angelika Silberbach, Mainpost (Germany), 11.01.2011