The Music of David Salminen

The 10 favorite books game…

1. “I Ching” (Wilhelm/Baynes trans.) Consulting this oracle in 1972 on the subject of going to a school called Sherborne (J.G. Bennett, Principal), I twice got this hexagram, months apart: “In relation to the human world, it denotes the creative action of the holy man or sage, of the ruler or leader of men, who through his power awakens and develops their higher nature.”
2. “The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton” – Many times have I come back to look at this passage – from the Appendix III. He was speaking to a group of monks from various religions, at Calcutta, October, 1968: “… the monk in the modern world… is a marginal person who withdraws deliberately to the margin of society with a view to deepening fundamental human experience… Thus I find myself representing perhaps hippies among you, poets, people of this kind who are seeking in all sorts of ways and have absolutely no established status whatever…”
3. “Gurdjieff – Making a New World” by J.G. Bennett. One of the parts I have returned to again and again, in the Chapter called The Law of Reciprocal Maintenance: “The world was brought into existence because ‘being’ and ‘time’ are mutually destructive. Everything separate and closed within itself must perish for lack of a principle of renewal. There is partial renewal by borrowing energy from outside, but this is not enough. Full renewal requires full mutuality. It is by Universal giving and receiving of energies that Cosmic Harmony is maintained.”
4. “Culture, Crisis, and Creativity” by Dane Rudhyar – particularly the chapter on the Inner Space of Tones: “In the piano… if large chords are struck, integrating the sounds produced by the strings of properly distanced keys, and the pedal is pressed allowing for total sounding board resonance, the gong-tone effect is obtained… in which tones replace words and seek either to convey a message or to release a magical transformative impact.”
5. “The Heretics” by Walter Nigg: “The heretic has this in common with the prophet and the saint: that he is religiously alive… and prepared to sacrifice everything for his faith. He is the extreme antithesis of the indifferentist…”
6. “A Gymnasium of Beliefs in Higher Intelligence” by Anthony Blake – this book is, for me, a catalyst for experiences! “There is no reason to suppose that intelligence is restricted to organic or quasi-organic forms and species. But we will leave the question of communing with the stars or other inorganic bodies to some other place.” … (David took that as a challenge!)
7. “The Aquarian Conspiracy” by Marilyn Ferguson, who was a keynote speaker at a holistic health conference I went to in 1981 or ‘82. I expected her to be just another speaker – but I went to hear her anyway. It turned out that her talk was an energy channeling… not labeled as such, but that’s certainly how I experienced it.

8. and 9. and 10. I met a mysterious man in 1969, going only by the name of Richard, with a perfect star in the lines on the palm of his hand. He told me to read 3 books which, he said, would put me on a different path in life. They did. The 3 were: “Stranger in a Strange Land” by Robert Heinlein & “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Expery & “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse.

The water theme is offering me a chance to see some things about myself and life a little more clearly… I just don’t know how many people share my view of the potential of music to open up perceptions and creative thinking, insight, and so forth… but those are the sorts of things that keep me going, with my impressionistic improvisations. Many years ago, when I started to have some remarkable experiences in the performance of composed music, I got motivated to learn a hundred or more special pieces that I thought had “messages” – but then, little by little, I found that what I heard was not necessarily at all what others heard!

Therefore, little by little, I gave in – to an appreciation of the unique subjectivity that everyone of us has. In that sense everyone is a genius – every person sees things or understands things that no one else does! The “message” of water that I recently happened upon in the Chinese Book of Changes/I Ching – that water “does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions.” … that message has begun to take on a profound significance to me. My hope with this concert is to encourage people to appreciate their own individual and unique “essential nature” !

This August 17 concert is free of charge, by the way (although donations to help defray costs and make more presentations possible are greatly appreciated). Here’s a link to the venue, with all the pertinent info:

THE NATURE OF WATER – Sunday, August 17, 2014 –  3 pm

Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Ave, Portland Oregon

There is no admission charge for this event, but donations to support more presentations of this kind are gratefully received.

Water itself is the inspiration behind the August 17 set of improvisations. Water is a major symbol running through cultures worldwide; but it is useful as such only when we are able to open up to its signals. Luckily, clues are everywhere! From the I Ching (Wilhelm/Baynes translation, Hexagram #29): “Water… flows on and on, and merely fills up all the places through which it flows; it does not shrink from any dangerous spot nor from any plunge, and nothing can make it lose its own essential nature. It remains true to itself under all conditions.”

For Salminen and many of his fans, it has become axiomatic that the subtle and enjoyable discipline of real listening is what actually makes a musical event come alive.  David will introduce this concert with a short talk providing useful hints about listening, and on how new music can be an inspiration toward new forms of understanding. His general philosophy about inspiration is that it is a plural medium – thus the “media” – from which we all draw nourishment. It is not something possessed by individuals.

The “doing” of improvisation has been David’s primary music teacher since he had an “opening” experience in 1979 while working as an accompanist with dozens of dance-teachers-in-training. However, that “opening” as well as Salminen’s ongoing presentations of “cosmic improvisation” was and is grounded in classical training. He took his first piano lessons in 1959 and continued for nine years at the David Hochstein Memorial Music School in Rochester, New York. These years were followed by studies in psychology, music theory, non-Western music, and avant-garde music at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts, 1969-74. The academic years were joyfully interrupted by a year of consciousness studies at the International Academy for Continuous Education at Sherborne, England, with the philosopher John G. Bennett. Subsequently, while living in Alaska in the late 1970’s, David’s development as a pianist was greatly accelerated under the tutelage of the French-born piano virtuoso Jean-Paul Billaud, who connected him with the Leschetitzky and other European traditions of music practice, technique, and interpretation.

Examples of David’s concert music can be found at:   – as well as –

For more information, call 503-762-6387 or email



How does one return to oneself, one’s sense & feeling of oneself, during the course of a busy day? I have been experimenting with “music mantras” for quite some time now. Instead of worrying about how to stop a tune that keeps running thru my head (which seems to be a common complaint in these times) I have experimented with intentionally placing a tune into my “mind” first thing in the morning, and allowing it to come up as it will during the day. I’ll run with it for awhile, and then just carry on with my business, whatever that may be. Two of the most effective tunes I’ve used for this are Finnish folk songs I memorized as a child during my early piano lessons. Someday I will have to record my piano versions of these two contrasting Finnish folk tunes, “I love you from the heart” and “I am a singing boy” – they are just marvelous. Another melody – actually a complicated melding of two contrasting themes – that arises often in my consciousness lately, as for instance right when I’m waking up in the morning, is the famous “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” by J.S. Bach. I don’t know why I love these particular tunes so much – but obviously such choices are very personal or idiosyncratic. Here is a recording of the Bach-Busoni version of my beloved “Wachet auf” – by the wise and subtle pianist of a previous generation…  Solomon:

“Music, as the beauty of sound, proceeds from a transcendental affirmation that is beyond all self-hood. Music in nature does not differ, in any essential way, from music in art. The thrush and the nightingale, the bull, the stallion and the lion are all artists re-creating in sound the cosmic affirmation which brought them into existence. From the time that earth first received its atmosphere, the music of wind and waves was there, a thousand million years before life had ears to hear it.” – an excerpt from “The Dramatic Universe” by J.G. Bennett (Vol III, p. 112)

An intriguing idea on how to listen to music – simple and direct – from the Ukranian-born composer Thomas de Hartmann (1885-1956): “Look into the depths of eternity.” David Salminen’s concert today, 3 pm March 30, 2014, at the Portland Piano Company in Portland, Oregon, will afford circumstances conducive to practicing that kind of listening. Join us if you can! But if you can’t, and you’re nonetheless interested in listening to music more effectively – drop me a line. Maybe we can find a way to chat about it. Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Ave. Portland, OR 97205

Donations to help make additional events more feasible are gratefully accepted.
For more information, call 503.762.6387


DAVID SALMINEN – in concert – cosmic piano improvisations

Experiences in Synchronicity

Sunday, March 30, 2014, 3 pm – 430 pm

Portland Piano Company, 711 SW 14th Ave. Portland, OR 97205

Donations to help make additional events more feasible are gratefully accepted.

for more information, call 503.762.6387 or visit



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