The Music of David Salminen

Posts tagged ‘collaboration’

remembering Olga de Hartmann, 28 August, 1885 – 12 Sept, 1979

Found on YouTube: various performances of the “Song of the Fisher Women” – composed by the collaborative team George Gurdjieff & Thomas de Hartmann – various renditions including solo piano (but not mine), and chamber orchestra. Back in the early 1970’s, when I was at school in England, this Oriental-flavored “Song of the Fisher Women” was one of my favorite discoveries… I played the solo piano version over and over again, in practice and also for others, for a number of years, along with dozens of other favorites out of the 200 or so published pieces in the Gurdjieff – de Hartmann musical literature, before I became primarily an improvisatore. Composed in the 1920’s – these eight or so volumes of music created by the seeker-traveler and mystic philosopher George Gurdjieff (1866? – 1949), with the help of the Russian-trained pianist-composer Thomas de Hartmann (1885-1956), are unique in their quiet, almost minimalist fusion of east – west musicality. Hartmann’s own music, both before and after his work with Gurdjieff, is much different. Years later, the Hartmann’s wrote a memoir about their adventures with Gurdjieff, during and after the Russian Revolution. It’s a spell-binding book, and still in print. How they got out of Russia, as aristocrats travelling through disputed, war-torn areas of the old empire, in 1917-18, was quite an adventure, indeed. In later years, Thomas’ widow, Olga, lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico until her death in 1979. I had the privilege of corresponding with her for a few years, and also of meeting her for a rich hour’s worth of conversation, on New Year’s Day, 1978. Her perspective on life was very challenging – all about the sacredness of one’s own experience. During our visit, aside from talking about her husband’s music, and playing a tape excerpt for me of his opera Esther, she was emphatic about trusting “inner voice and wish” as the only way to live, and gave examples from her own life experiences. In order to really learn, in order to do the right thing, she said, you must “fight your teacher”. She and her husband Thomas had regarded Gurdjieff as a spiritual teacher worth trusting with their very lives, especially during the time of the Russian Revolution, but the relationships were far from passive. It seems probable to me that most people who have a “spiritual teacher” do not have that kind of collaborative relationship, and thus miss out on much if not most of what they could get from their time spent together…


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