Greg Barbrick
Published: Oct 04, 2011 at 9:40 am

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) was born in Armenia, and set
out to explore the mystery of human existence at a young age. His
search took him from Armenia, to the Middle East, Central Asia,
India, and North Africa. The folk music, sacreds, rituals, and dance
he absorbed on these travels would come to serve him well. Settling
down in the 1920s, Gurdjieff dictated some 300 melodies to his pupil
Thomas de Hartmann.

Gurdjieff's most prolific writing period coincided during the biggest
upheavals of modern times, World Wars I and II. Drawing from a variety
of world religions, his constant quest was to find a way for man to
coexist in a peaceful manner. But maybe all of his writings were for
naught, because what he achieved musically seemed to render this goal
plausible by itself.

Nowhere can this be better heard than on The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments
Ensemble's Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff. The thirteen-piece
ensemble is led by director Levon Eskenian, and play a wide variety
of non-traditional instruments. Although Gurdjieff's music has been
recorded by various artists over the years, including Keith Jarrett's
Sacred Hymns in 1980, most have been piano recitations.

The Music Of Georges I. Gurdjieff is much more "authentic" sounding
with the use of such traditional instruments as the duduk, blul, oud
canon, kamancha and others. All 17 tracks on this album are relatively
short, and work in a variety of capacities. For one, there is just
the pure enjoyment of hearing many of these ancient, soothing hymns,
chants, and songs played as they were meant to be played. There is
a "world music" element to this, but not in the pretentious manner
that term often connotes. Rather, the pieces are heard in a much more
organic way. You see, when Gurdjieff was traveling, he was memorizing
these tunes, then having them transcribed later. So none of these
ever feel like field recordings.

The second manner in which this Music can be heard is as a wonderful
accompaniment to the writings of Gurdjieff. While he loved music and
travel, the true quest for him was a spiritual one. It seems his hope
was to find either the "one true answer" or construct it out of the
various religions he studied.

In any case, he music he returned with, and has been recorded by
the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble is fascinating, and a great
introduction to one of the true Renaissance men of the early twentieth

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