The History of the Music
There are two completely separate bodies of Movements created in two specific periods of Gurdjieff’s life: the old Movements between 1918 and 1924 and the new exercises created between 1940 and 1949.
In between these periods Gurdjieff taught no Movements.
Mrs. Jessmin Howarth said about the older Movements: “Everything worked on from 1922 to 1924 in my studios (the studios in the Dalcroze Institute in Paris) and at the Prieuré (The Institute at Fontainebleau) for five or six hours a day, and done in the public demonstrations, had already been completely learnt during months of intensive work in Tiflis, Constantinople, Berlin etc., by the original group before they even arrived in France. No other Movements were ever given such attention.”
Mrs. Howarth’s daughter, the singer/guitarist known as “Dushka,” added that these have a unique and extra dimension, since they are the only ones for which Gurdjieff himself specified the music. He worked long hours dictating distinctive oriental melodies with subtle harmonies and rhythms, exactly suited to every gesture and motion. She emphasised that the piano versions of these pieces would benefit from being compared to and corrected from de Hartmann’s original orchestral scores that were used in the public demonstrations in 1923-1924.
Around 1940, Gurdjieff started again to teach Movements, scores of them. For a right understanding of Gurdjieff’s last ten years, one should realise that each day he was occupied for at least two to three hours with Movements. There cannot be any doubt that in this period of his teaching, they were among his most primary activities and concerns. The music for all these Movements was always improvised by different pianists and neither choreographies nor the notation of music were allowed. His main work went into a series of Movements, now called the 39 Series, that he considered set and ready and met all his requirements. But, again, no music existed for the Movements from the 39 Series, nor for the others from his newer Movements, which had received less of his attention and approval. When Gurdjieff was in hospital, he gave Madame de Salzmann a message for the de Hartmanns, just before he died in 1949.
In this message, he asked de Hartmann to write the music for his new exercises. This is what de Hartmann started to do from 1950 onwards. His first new compositions were used in the demonstration of Movements in London in 1950. This was the first public demonstration without Mr. Gurdjieff being present.
De Hartmann continued composing after moving to America. So everything for the new exercises, with just a few exceptions, is composed by de Hartmann alone.
In his autobiography, de Hartmann attributes The Essentuki Prayer to 1918, the first conception of the music for The Struggle of the Magicians to 1919, work on the Ho-Ya and The Great Prayer to 1920, and the remaining Movements music to the period between 1920-1924 when the last pieces were dictated. In de Hartmann’s privately published Movements book, he not only included Gurdjieff’s earliest music, but also some of his own compositions made after Gurdjieff’s death. This has created some confusion. One inconsistency needs explanation.
Although the Six Obligatories actually belong to Gurdjieff’s oldest works, they are not included in the selection for this album (Gurdjieff’s Music for the Movements, Channel Crossings CCS 15298) simply because de Hartmann places them after the 39 Series in his second Movements book. Some of the music for the newer exercises was composed after Gurdjieff’s death by Helen Adie in collaboration with Mme. Jeanne de Salzmann, by Edward Michael and several others. De Hartmann’s position remains unique, for his contribution provided a compositional framework that was subsequently consulted by all other composers in this field. They stuck to the same concept, sometimes to the extent that they sound predictable, a danger de Hartmann always knew how to avoid.
During the decade that Gurdjieff gave his new exercises and gradually established the 39 Series, not only was the making of choreographic notes explicitly forbidden by him, but another of his strict orders was that the music should be improvised by the pianist. He would give a rhythm to the pianist and his instructions were generally limited to, “Now, just do it!” In fact, it is reported that the choice of a particular rhythm often provided Gurdjieff with the fundamentals out of which he created the whole structure of the new Movement.
A couple of decades earlier a specialist in composing music for gymnastics, Rudolf Bode, had already stressed the importance of improvisation: “…for the teaching of gymnastics as far as it is accompanied by music, the ability to employ some improvisation, even though it be produced by the most simple means, is absolutely essential… Every kind of merely outer simulation must necessarily lead to monotony…” Obviously, Gurdjieff worked along the same lines and was on his guard for any premature fixations. Movements and music had to be alive. The truth of his work should present itself in an ongoing creative process, in an ever new and immaculate form in every moment.
For those who regard such processes as self-evident it will be useful to point out that an equal balance between music and dance is rare. Historically, one of the two would be dominant: either the music written to sustain the ballet, or the ballet fitted onto the existing music.
While performing Movements, one can experience sound in a totally new way, as if it illuminates one’s inner life. A unique balance comes about in us; the music, the gestures and our inner aspirations become one and it is as if we enter a new place, one without walls, without time. At such a moment, we experience life in a way that will be difficult to forget.