At Seven Stars Gallery, October 15, 2023, 3 pm
Inner Journeys: the Music of G. I. Gurdjieff and Thomas DeHartmann
A hundred years ago, just before the Revolution, an unusual man appeared in Russia offering an approach to understanding one’s life and one’s place on earth. The approach was neither political nor explicitly religious and attracted modest interest in a time of great turmoil. The man was G. I. Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armenian who had spent years traveling in Central Asia, searching for answers to some of the fundamental questions concerning human existence: Who and what are we as human beings? What is our place in the scheme of things? Do we serve a purpose, or is life completely accidental?
Such questions are by no means new: for millennia, philosophers have sought answers to them. The questions persist, in human history but also in each of us, mostly below our awareness, surfacing briefly on occasion, only to subside beneath everyday concerns. The self-inquiry they inspired in Gurdjieff directed his lifelong search and became central to the teaching he brought in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and later, in western Europe and America.
One of Gurdjieff’s key observations was that self-inquiry need not conflict with everyday life. These two aspects or “currents” of human existence are equally important, and their reciprocal interaction could bring about a third kind of life that included both. Using methods that were—and are—essentially indirect, he created challenging conditions that called for efforts to remember simultaneously these two currents. Life is enriched when we try to remember our inner life while engaged with everyday concerns: an effort, he said, that makes everything “more vivid.”
Gurdjieff’s teaching is primarily an oral tradition, embodied in his writings, music, and sacred dances (Movements). His writings took the form of three books under the common title All and Everything. The first is the massive Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson, the second his autobiographical Meetings with Remarkable Men, and the third the deliberately incomplete shorter book, Life is Real Only Then, When “I am.” Beside this corpus of his direct writings stand two important works: a collection of talks given by Gurdjieff in the 1920s and 30s under the title of Views from the Real World, and the recently published Paris Meetings 1943, consisting of transcripts, translated from the French, of questions that arose during weekly meetings and Gurdjieff’s responses to them.
Gurdjieff’s music consists of pieces written in collaboration with the composer Thomas De Hartmann, who transcribed and harmonized Gurdjieff’s dictated melodies. In addition to printed editions, several recordings are available, including one by De Hartmann himself. Other pianists include Alain Kremsky, Laurence Rosenthal, Linda Daniel Spitz, Charles Ketcham, and Yleana Bautista.
The sacred dances called Movements create conditions that engage mind, body, and feeling. “Taking new, unaccustomed postures,” Gurdjieff wrote, “enables you to observe yourself inside differently from the way you usually do.”
Following Gurdjieff’s death, many of his direct pupils gathered around Jeanne de Salzmann, to whom Gurdjieff had entrusted the development of his teaching after his death. From 1949 until her death at the age of 101 in 1990, Madame de Salzmann carried the responsibility for the transmission of Gurdjieff’s teaching, with particular emphasis on the Movements, through the Gurdjieff Institute in Paris, the Gurdjieff Society in London, and the Gurdjieff Foundations in North and South America. In collaboration with Peter Brook, she was instrumental in the realization of the 1979 film Meetings With Remarkable Men.
The Sierra Gurdjieff Study Group (“SGSG”), in contact with other Gurdjieff Foundations worldwide, was established in 2010 by Paul Jordan-Smith and Ellen Reynard, each of whom have been in the Work for over fifty years and studied with some of Gurdjieff’s original pupils. Along with musician Alan Feeney, who has been in the Work for over forty years and also had direct contact with some of Gurdjieff’s pupils, Paul and Ellen are offering a program about the Gurdjieff teaching and a performance of Gurdjieff’s music for the piano. This presentation will take place on Sunday, October 15th at 3 pm at the Seven Stars Gallery, 210 Spring Street, Nevada City