Stunningly beautiful harmonium improvisations recorded in 1949 by spiritualist G.I Gurdjieff. Many who heard these performances live found themselves crying uncontrollably. After this cathartic listening experience they reached a place where they felt happy and whole. We hope this record will bring a similar experience to the modern day listener. It doesn't get much purer than this. Cover is silkscreened with gold ink. A co-release with Psychic Sounds Research.
"An extraordinary collection of harmonium recordings by Russian-born mystic G.I. Gurdjieff, a controversial figure in the earlier part of the 20th century. He counted Rene Daumal and Frank Lloyd Wright amongst his disciples, but was alternately disparaged in the press as a cult leader and even caricatured as a phony in Leanora Carrington's surrealist masterpiece The Hearing Trumpet. Noted British director Peter Brooks made a great dramatic film about the earlier part of Gurdjieff's life called Meetings with Remarkable Men, and I most recently saw his name pop up in Daniel Pinchbeck's Breaking Open the Head, a study of modern shamanism and psychedelic drugs. His philosophies continue to have adherents around the world and there is even a Gurdjieff foundation located right here in New York.
The earliest part of Gurdjieff's story is shrouded in mystery, but what is known is that at some point in his late-teens or early-twenties he went off on an extended quest throughout Persia and the Far East looking for religious mystics, ascetics, and holy men. Through these individuals he believed he discerned certain truths about the condition of man; he believed that the vast majority of mankind is sleepwalking through life, unable to reconcile the various splits in their psyche. Through dance, music, and literature he formulated specific practices that would condition a person to awaken to their surrounding reality. His "novel," Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, was purposefully very densely written to require the utmost concentration, for it is only through hard work and concentration that mankind can awaken from its slumber. Gurdjieff also wrote a good deal of piano music that has been widely available for some time, but the harmonium improvisations presented here have been much more difficult to find.
I'd been lucky to discover several battered privately issued LPs a while back, and was immediately struck by what is surely one of the most enigmatic accomplishments of Gurdjieff's life. This album, comprised of an improv session recorded in 1948, seems instantly familiar, yet quite unlike anything I've ever heard before. There is a certain "old world" quality to the pieces, with melodies deliberately exuding airs of mystery. The music is languorous and haunting, never droning on for too long or getting shrill as the harmonium is wont to do. One gets the feeling in these performances that Gurdjieff is very consciously attempting to distill his soul through music, and I'm sure that there is a case to be made that these pieces constitute a little-discussed forerunner to ambient music. [MK]Other Music