The Music of David Salminen

Posts tagged ‘Gurdjieff’

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…


David’s spring piano concert – Portland, Oregon

Sat, March 24, 2012, 3 pm – no charge, but donations welcome
131 NW 13th Ave (parking across the street) – Portland, Oregon

The program will consist of improvisations (although not without much hidden preparation) inspired by the notion of the vast unknown. In cosmology, the unknown can be symbolized by the still unexplained “dark energy” that could account for the evidence of recent years showing that the expansion of the universe is accelerating into the future at a remarkable rate. The unknown is also perhaps exemplified in our own lives, by the experience of the interplay in psychological terms between the various levels of personal consciousness and the great, largely unknown collective unconscious postulated by C.G. Jung. With the help of an attentive audience, I’m hoping to musically evoke a sense of relaxing deeply into these cosmological and psychological worlds in ways both restful and exhilarating… this is an artistic/poetic music meditation, of course, not a scientific experiment. Aside from a few suggestive ideas here and there, I leave it to you as to how you will listen to the piano improvisations I create, and as to how the meaning or experience you create for yourself will unfold. I hope you can join us – and feel free to invite your friends!

the idea of transcending “geocentric philosophies”

“Science has widened man’s horizons far beyond his earthly existence, and yet scientists do not notice that they have made possible a new way of thinking about the world, that would take account of the changes of scale that have put geocentric philosophies, once and for all, out of serious consideration.”  J.G. Bennett, p. 187 of his 1973 book “Gurdjieff – Making a New World”

J.G. Bennett – who I met in 1971 and subsequently studied music with, at his International Academy for Continuous Education at Sherborne near Cheltenham, England – was a major influence on the development of my thinking. An interest in not only modern concepts, but also modern feelings – for the Cosmos we are all a part of – has been a major inspiration for my music.

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