Thursday, September 17, 2009
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Friday, September 4, 2009
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
From The Hudson River Series
Late afternoon walks itself down river roads
With no help from me,
I am here only to discover friends discover me.
Bright faces that lie past my appreciation,
In the realm of love, which I thought I had forgotten,
Or maybe never knew.
Past the junipers, and into shaded gaps-
A flood tide gathers at the base of quickening reeds.
Palisades turn their blind, indifferent faces towards
Crashing down like poltergeists.
These are strange events I cannot measure with the mind,
Filled with the energies of time, and notable coincidence.
Take the power of legs, of breath, of air,
And climb hills tamed by asphalt,
Into the realms where ice was dug into the rock,
Saving itself for the dog days of July.
Here the squirrels still remember how to leap and pray;
Bees gather at the edge of tepid water,
Worshipping the wetness of the dirt.
The call of the ocean
Has not left their veins
For six hundred million years.
Monday, July 27, 2009
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
In the eye
We don't look each other in the eye, you and me,
We turn away,
Each to his wayward, inward self
Wrapping the vine of our attention
Around the twigs and brambles of an inner thicket.
In there dwells the mockingbird,
Deep and sweet in songs of imitation,
Shortly on to something new,
But always borrowed.
Can we sing our own songs, you and me,
Those notes so dearly won, from places we don't go?
Are there musics we can offer one another,
Eye to eye,
Without the fear of criticism or despair?
Come, let us lay hands together
On the loves that lie between us,
The chances we deny, and push away.
Let's be together here,
Loose the garments of conviction,
See the color of our costumes clearly,
Pull the briars off our tombstones,
And revel in a fattening-day
Where the saints stop marching,
And begin to dance together.
Friday, July 10, 2009
At the same time, I listened to to a few of the harmonium recordings made by Mr. Gurdjieff himself. These two sets of impressions percolated in me for several days, and this morning, a distinct intuition arose.
If one listens to the harmonium recordings, it's quite clear that what we find there is different than the compositions created in the Gurdjieff/DeHartmann collaboration. And it became equally apparent to me that it is not possible that the person who was playing the harmonium -- that is, Mr. Gurdjieff himself -- provided the majority of the material for the compositions we now hear.
Why do I say that?
The harmonium recordings are stream of consciousness recordings. Individual chords, and some overall impressionistic effects, bear a relationship to the distinctive features of the Gurdjieff/DeHartmann compositions. DeHartmann's compositions, however, are complex, delicately structured pieces, with all of the professional nuances that one could and should expect of a musician.
Gurdjieff, of course, was not a trained musician of any kind, and his harmonium recordings reveal it. He was not, in fact, even what amounts to a fully competent "folk tradition" musician, judging from the recordings.
What we do hear in the harmonium recordings are a number of distinctive features of expression that are found in the Gurdjieff/DeHartmann compositions: an almost physical, and certainly emotional longing, a search; the sense that something ineffable and extraordinary lies in the distance, just beyond our grasp; major chords in juxtapositions that create a hint of joy and expansion. The sense that we are listening to an unformed, yet actively nascent, hymn.
I could say an equal number of negative things about the harmonium recordings, but I will restrain myself, lest my plastic angel's wings get a clipping.
Gurdjieff was, we may assume and believe, an ardent listener to and student of religious, sacred, and folk musical traditions--as well as somewhat of a genius in the remembering of them. This should come as no surprise-- after all, Gurdjieff displayed genius in many areas.
Genius notwithstanding, without Thomas DeHartmann, the achievement of the musical sophistication we hear in the Gurdjieff/DeHartmann music would almost certainly have been unattainable to him.
So I have reached the conclusion, mostly by listening with my head, my heart, and my ears-- that the majority of the material, including its overall structure, coherence, direction, and, yes, even emotional tone, is primarily attributable to Thomas DeHartmann.
I'm not sure if I am the first person who has ever said this -- I doubt it, because almost no idea is original -- but it seems worth discussing, because there is a veritable little industry out there devoted to making everything Mr. Gurdjieff did conscious, sacred, and perfect. There is a tendency to forget the fact that he was human -- a fact that C. S. Nott brings up in "Teachings of Gurdjieff-The Journal of a Pupil." Even when he was alive, people around Gurdjieff tended to ascribe his every single action to some higher level of cosmic consciousness at work, and every manifestation of his as coming from a fully enlightened, perfectly awakened Being.
The tendency to do this has not faded with time. Staunch adherents of the teaching become outraged when anyone suggests the contrary. I have been there personally and made the suggestions, so I'm not whistling Dixie about this little habit some of us have of pedestal-izing Gurdjieff... as though he might look better on our own soap box than he does on his own.
What interests me is that Nott dismisses any such romantic ideas. I think that what interested him more than anything else was how fully and absolutely human Gurdjieff was--human with all the foibles and failings that come with that. Many of us don't want angels as teachers. We are okay with a few devils, but above all, we want to learn from other human beings.
So just what was Gurdjieff's role in the composition of the music?
Gurdjieff was, above all, interested in helping those who worked with and achieve something for themselves. He did not want to do their work for them. He wanted to inspire them.
To inspire means, quite literally, to put air into -- to breathe into. Air, as we know, is referred to as the second being the food in this work, that is, it is a higher level of food at a finer rate of vibration than the ordinary food we eat.
Mr. Gurdjieff worked to help those around him acquire a higher level of food so that they could do their own work. In Thomas de Hartmann's case, he provided the inspiration, the emotional tone, the core relational experiences to be sought in sacred music. He provided the direction, the impetus, and he brought his own wish to the project. He helped DeHartmann turn his considerable compositional skills to a much higher purpose than that of putting on ballets. And yes, I'm sure he brought melodies and memories that powerfully informed the enterprise.
But he did not write the music.
That was DeHartmann's job. If Gurdjieff had, in fact, written the music, DeHartmann wouldn't have been needed. Not only that, he would have been taking the man's work away from him, and that was never the way Gurdjieff did things. (Nott describes the two of them as even having public spats over the process.)
As to whether or not the pieces actually represent real hymns and dances that Gurdjieff heard in his travels, well, we may never know. To the best of my knowledge, none of the Gurdjieff/DeHartmann music has ever been "rediscovered in situ," that is, stumbled across in its original form in some temple, monastery, or village.
If they were really from such sources, this makes every single existing such piece, for the time being, a "golden hamster"-- that is, a species discovered only one single time in the wild, and then never seen (i.e., heard) again.
I think it far more likely that we have here original works, in the overall spirit of their purported origins, which were created for Gurdjieff's own admirable--and, as it turns out, lasting--purposes.
In DeHartmann, in other words, we find a man who reached an extraordinary potential under the tutelage of an extraordinary teacher. The body of work that emerged from that is, primarily, his own. I say this because it is all too easy to take this work away from the man, all too easy to pretend that his teacher was all and everything.
We owe the man a tremendous debt of gratitude for the personal sacrifice he made -- personal sacrifices are always required when one puts oneself under the tutelage of a master -- and the enormous amount of work he did to create a body of music which has become one of the core experiences of the work.
Jeanne DeSalzmann may, apparently, have been of a similar mind, because many years later, when she needed additional music for the movements, she turned to him to write it.
So, today, a little Bravo to Thomas DeHartmann.
May our hearts be open, and our prayers be heard.