the project

The music produced from the remarkable collaboration of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann typifies the creative explorations undertaken by many artists just after the turn of the century. In visual art, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), explored abstraction in both sight and sound, while composer Alexander Scryabin (1872-1915) proposed an aesthetic format through his compositions that entailed the collaboration of colors, sounds, scents and movement. Each of these artists and thinkers created an art that was the literal embodiment of a deeply held philosophical system of beliefs. Gurdjieff, Kandinsky and Scryabin freely drew from an informed mixture of Greek mythology, Christianity, Hinduism, Theosophy and Chinese philosophy to complete their own personal creeds. Each felt that their particular artifact of sight or sound, when fully experienced, would conjure forth powers which modern man had allowed to atrophy.

However, the musical aspirations of Georges Gurdjieff differ in the respect that music and movement were an inextricable part of his combined pedagogy and enlightenment. Coming from Alexandropol (today: Leninakan), Armenia, Gurdjieff's attitudes were textured by the fact that since the 3rd century B.C., this area had become the literal crossroad for the diverse cultures that ringed the Black, Caspian and Mediterranean Seas. The horizon of his musical art never widened. Instead, it grew gradually and inexorably, his gaze focused more and more on using music to gain mastery over the ethological resources of the human spirit and moral behaviour. It is ironic, indeed, that someone with such an unambiguous and immediate use for music in furthering a prodigious philosophical narrative, was so ill-equipped with the general skills of the art.

As a result of his travels and keen observations, Georges Gurdjieff had become a repository of the ancient and ineffable. However, he was without an articulate voice to impart this esoteric knowledge to any but his most ardent followers. Gurdjieff found in Thomas de Hartmann, not only a willing disciple, but also, an accomplished musician. By the time de Hartmann met Gurdjieff in 1917, he was thirty-one and already a successful composer in St. Petersburg. The premiere performances of his ballets included Fokine, Nijinsky and Pavlova and had been performed before the Tsar. The years preceding 1917 witnessed Thomas de Hartmann's search for divine truths and enlightenment. During the three years that he studied conducting in Munich, de Hartmann came into close contact with Kandinsky and his associates who espoused notions of anthroposophy and synesthesia. Also, he was one of the few close friends of the enigmatic Alexander Scryabin. De Hartmann once remarked that when he was composing, he often recalled the words of the Russian fairy tale:

Go - not knowing where;
Bring - not knowing what;
The path is long, the way unknown;
The hero knows how to arrive
there by himself alone;
He has the guidance and help of
Higher Forces …

Thomas de Hartmann was a fellow seeker of the truth. He saw in Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff not the random compilation of bits and pieces of a variety of obscure and forgotten civilizations, but a unified cultural expression forged by an intense dialectical encounter. Thomas de Hartmann, the composer, approached Gurdjieff as a codified musical system of melodic, rhythmic and harmonic behaviour. In a sense, Thomas de Hartmann did for Georges Gurdjieff what Belá Bártok had done for the Magyar Dallok of Hungary. De Hartmann's real genius lies in his gift for taking the raw musical utterances of Gurdjieff and transforming them into sophisticated piano compositions indebted both to the 19th century European art music tradition and the provocatively inspired visions of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff.

Cecil Lytle

This three volume compilation is tribute to the genius of three uniquely talented men—a philosopher, a composer, and a pianist-musicologist.

These works began with the philosophical searchings of Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff, an Armenian intellectual at the turn of the 20th century. His homeland was the crossroad for the diverse cultures that ringed the Black, Caspian and Mediterranean Seas. His fascination with the human spirit and his searching for the truth took him on vast journeys through India, Tibet and China. A keen observer, Gurdjieff, began to accumulate bits and pieces of musical traditions. These he combined with his provocatively inspired visions as a universal symbol of his philosophical beliefs.

Gurdjieff, however, did not have the musical ability to transform his abstractions into reality. Fortunately, one of his disciples was a gifted and successful composer in St. Petersburg, Thomas Alexandrovich de Hartmann, whom he met in 1917. As a fellow searcher for the truth, de Hartmann was eager to transform the raw musical utterances of Gurdjieff into sophisticated piano compositions. Those scores, sadly, were left in a state of disarray in the estate of de Hartmann.

Decades later, musicologist, professor, and pianist Cecil Lytle, became the final element of the equation. In the mid 1980s, he and a team of researchers began a three year quest, scrupulously studying the scattered files of de Hartmann's scores, assembling the first truly accurate arrangements of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann legacy. A man in touch with the philosophical, as well, as the musical nature of the works, Lytle performs them with deep emotion and unsurpassed skill.

The three volumes vary in their nature. Seekers of the Truth (14020-2) presents the reflective, ceremonial music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann's majestic suites. Reading of a Sacred Book (14028-2) contains some of their dance and character pieces of a more lively nature. Words for a Hymn to the Sun (14035-2) completes the trilogy with the final works of the great spiritual teacher, Georges Gurdjieff. Truly, these dramatic piano performances serve as the highest praise to three remarkable individuals. The series is also available as a complete edition in a 6 CD Boxed Set (19904-2).


  Disk 1:  
1-19 Parts 1-19 54'42"
  Total Time: 54'42"
  Disk 2:  
1-9 Hymns From A Great Temple, Hymns 1-9 23'35"
10-17 Rituals of a Sufi Order, Parts 1-8 14'04"
18 Enneagram 5'32"
  Total Time: 44'34"