The music that Gurdjieff composed with Thomas de Hartmann, along with his writings and the Movements, constitute a threefold legacy of enduring value to the contemporary world. Shortly after the classically trained composer de Hartmann became a student of Gurdjieff in 1916, they began a musical collaboration that lasted a decade. The early pieces were music to accompany the Movements and orchestral works for public performances of the Movements and sacred dances. In their most fertile period between 1924 and 1927, Gurdjieff and de Hartmann created almost 300 pieces of exemplary music drawn from Gurdjieff’s recollections of folk, ethnic, religious and sacred music that he heard during his extensive travels across three continents.

During Gurdjieff’s lifetime only his pupils and followers were exposed to his music, either as accompaniment to the Movements or in private or public performances. The first printed sheet music available to the public was published in Paris in 1950 by Janus. Although phonograph records of de Hartmann playing selections of the music were privately produced in 1951, the first set of albums recorded by de Hartmann for public distribution was not available until 1955 (also released by Janus). In the decades following, albums were released by a variety of pianists, including jazz artist Keith Jarrett, direct students of Gurdjieff such as Carol Robinson and Rosemary Nott, and second-generation students, including Alain Kreminski, Wim von Dullemen, Charles Ketcham, Laurence Rosenthal, and others. The most historically significant releases were The Music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann in 1989, Harmonic Development (2004), a set of harmonium recordings of Gurdjieff made in 1948 and 1949 and Oriental Suite (2006), contemporary orchestral recordings of the 1923-24 public performances of the Movements and sacred dances in Paris and America.

The music itself has been described as a work of objective art, a "healing balm" whose vibrations have a definite organic and psychological effect on the listener. In the words of Gurdjieff’s pupil Solange Claustres: "Some parts resemble a call which comes from afar and which may resonate in us in a very subtle and profound way. This very special music carries not only a message but also a question and helps us to listen to a voice which speaks directly both to our being and heart and also to our body which registers its effect."

G.I. Gurdjieff Sacred Hymns
Keith Jarrett
ECM Records (1980)


Keith Jarrett is a renowned jazz pianist and composer who performs both jazz and classical music. He is also famous for his highly creative improvisations (notably The Köln Concert). In this homage to Gurdjieff’s music, he plays with great sensitivity and quiet authority, approaching the music with a variety of stylistic interpretations. Some of the pieces are solemn and contemplative (Hymn from a Great Temple), some are stark and dramatic with elements of dissonance (Prayer and Despair), while others are haunting and enigmatic (Holy Affirming-Holy Denying-Holy Reconciling). Reviewer Richard Ginell writes: "Jarrett assumes the proper devotional position, playing with a steady tread but always with attention to dynamic extremes, producing a gorgeously rich piano tone with plenty of bass. The whole record has a serene dignity, even at its loudest levels."

The Music of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann
Thomas de Hartmann
G-H Records (1989)


During the 1950s, informal recordings of Thomas de Hartmann playing the music that Gurdjieff and he composed were taped on amateur equipment at Madame Ouspensky’s farm in New Jersey by her grandson Lonia Savitsky. They were not originally intended for public release as they were for de Hartmann’s personal reference, and some were even taped without his knowledge. In the 1980s, the tapes were remastered and the sound quality improved by sophisticated technical methods. They were initially released publicly as a boxed set of four LP records and four audio cassettes. In 1989 the compilation was re-released as a set of three CDs. These definitive recordings showcase de Hartmann’s prowess as a pianist and composer and are an authentic rendition of the music, as they possess the authority of the composer’s interpretation of his own music. Laurence Rosenthal: "What we have is a clean, quiet recording of performances which, without a doubt, set the standard for the interpretation of these deceptively simple pieces. As a pianist, de Hartmann was not only a superb technician, but played with great depth of understanding and poetic sensibility; and then, of course, it was his own music. Unlike, therefore, any other recording of these works, this one gives the sense of the pianist-composer going to the very heart of each phrase. The music emerges in all its clarity and integrity; the pianist and his personality disappear entirely from the scene. One cannot ask more from any musical rendering." The music is varied, ranging from traditional folk music to deeply evocative hymns of a solemn or contemplative nature similar to Russian Orthodox liturgy. Solange Claustres, a student of Gurdjieff, captures the depth of the music performed by de Hartmann: "Each composition has its own inner rhythm, space and particular state which express together a situation set in a certain context and atmosphere. No two pieces are alike except for their style as a prayer, as music from the Dervishes, a song, a dance, a ceremony, a memory of some event or as a tale." Above all, the music has an enigmatic inner essence beyond the external forms and styles, characterized by a compelling force, ineffable mood and capacity to cast a spell on the listener.

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. I
Asian Songs and Rhythms
Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (1995)


The scores of these Gurdjieff/de Hartmann compositions were first published in the 1980s by Schott Musik International under the guidance of Jeanne de Salzmann and John Pentland. Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal, accomplished pianists familiar with the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann corpus of music, were chosen to perform the music which was then recorded in four volumes as Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano. The music in Volume I: Asian Songs and Rhythms reflects Gurdjieff’s early travels throughout the Near East and Central Asia and his familiarity with the musical folklore of the many ethnic groups in these regions. Although many of the titles cannot be taken literally, the music may be taken as an accurate recollection of certain regional melodies which capture the idiom of the locale. Within the folklore genre of the album there is a wide variety of styles suggesting both Eastern and Western influences, notably in the employment of poly-rhythms. "Nearly all the pieces in this album are short, sometimes lasting only a minute, often with only one theme, as if trying to illuminate a certain idea or to evoke a particular feeling. In certain instances the repetition of an entire piece is necessary for its essence to be fully conveyed. Each composition is, in a way, a moment musical, a kind of ‘travel sketch,’ but with an implication of deeper feeling beneath the surface, waiting to be discovered."

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. II
Music of the Sayyids and the Dervishes
Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (1997)


The Sayyids are direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed and are highly esteemed in the Islamic world. Dervishes are spiritual aspirants belonging to various Sufi orders. Although the Sayyids have left no music that can be specifically attributed to them, Gurdjieff has presumably evoked their name to suggest a quality of spiritual feeling drawn from the heart which is emotional yet devoid of sentimentality. The Dervish pieces are drawn from the different Sufi orders and brotherhoods that Gurdjieff contacted during his travels in Central Asia and the Near East. They are characterized by strong dance rhythms and by a spiritual ardour meant to provide a specific rhythmic support for certain breathing and concentration exercises designed to produce an inner awakening. "The intention of the compositions was clearly to evoke the spirit of the Sayyids and Dervishes, rather than to transcribe their music. As in all of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann works, one finds here their unique blend of Eastern and Western musical idioms. However, the exact sources of inspiration for this music, as so often in many aspects of Gurdjieff’s teaching, remain uncertain."

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. III
Hymns, Prayers and Rituals
Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (1998)


Volume III of the Music for the Piano series consists of hymns, prayers and rituals which evoke a sense of the sacred. The pieces are varied in form and style, but they all share the unmistakable mark of the depth of Gurdjieff’s inner feeling and sensitivity. Although some are given titles, others are identified only by number. The hymns are unlike conventional church choir hymns: "They might instead be viewed as expressions of inner states in which man confronts his inmost self – sometimes through a dramatic struggle – to become aware of the different forces which influence both his life and his inner being." Some of the pieces are evocative of the Russian Orthodox liturgy while others are similar to Dervish chants or are expressions of the great laws of cosmic processes (the laws of 3 and 7) on which Gurdjieff’s teaching is based.

Gurdjieff/de Hartmann Music for the Piano: Vol. IV
Hymns from a Great Temple and Other Selected Works
Linda Daniel-Spitz, Charles Ketcham and Laurence Rosenthal
Wergo (2001)


Sacred hymns, with their unusual nature, comprise perhaps the most important part of the musical oeuvre of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann compositions. Ten of these are subsumed under the title Hymns from a Great Temple and express the heart of Orthodox Christianity with their quality of deep inner questioning and a yearning for spiritual Truth. "In certain of these ten hymns, the quality of the sacred may emerge only after repeated hearings, when the music has been allowed to penetrate beyond our usual associative patterns. And still they may appear cryptic and elusive. Their real meaning seems to remain hidden. And perhaps it is just those hymns that refuse to yield up their secret that finally leave the deepest and most enduring impression." Also included in the album are the enigmatic "The Great Prayer" and a number of pieces drawn from Gurdjieff’s ballet The Struggle of the Magicians, and four early pieces composed in 1924, characterized by a heartfelt and contemplative ambience.

The Story of the Resurrection of Christ
Alain Kreminski
Naïve (2001)


Alain Kreminski orchestrated the sacred dances and choral sections of Peter Brook’s film Meetings with Remarkable Men. His piano performance has a unique quality, notable for a "spiritual touch, vibrant and luminous," which is sensitive to the inner movement of energy of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann compositions. Kreminski eloquently describes this music: "It is lovely, limpid, of great inner simplicity, has some special, indefinable characteristic. With it we begin a journey through countries that are unknown and yet strangely familiar. A feeling of great purity emanates from this music . . . it gives expression to laws that touch and enlighten us: this music has the undeniable power of restoring us to ourselves." Most of the pieces are spiritual in nature, serene, simple and unadorned in harmony and melody. In its purity it is, in Kreminski’s words, "music of the soul."

Harmonic Development: The Complete Harmonium Recordings 1948-1949
G.I. Gurdjieff
Basta (2004)


In the final years of his life, Gurdjieff instructed his students to record him playing improvised melodies on his harmonium. Most of the pieces were recorded at his apartment in Paris, but some recordings were also made at the Wellington Hotel in New York City (which include several talks and stories told to his students). Gert-Jan Blom, a Dutch musical researcher and producer, was given access in 2000 by Gurdjieff’s family to 44 master tapes containing Gurdjieff’s recorded output. Over the next few years he catalogued, sequenced and used modern electronic technology to complete an audio restoration of the recordings. The resulting 136 pieces amounted to more than 19 hours of music which was formatted as a single MP3 disc. Although Gurdjieff was not a trained musician and his playing lacked technical expertise, the power and impact of his harmonium music is undeniable. His improvisations were usually in minor chords augmented by haunting single notes. The seemingly simple music had a quality unlike any other music his pupils had heard and touched the innermost being of the listener. In the words of Blom: "His style of playing never changed. The music was always described as slow, sad and in a minor key. Technical virtuosity on the instrument was never a big concern for Gurdjieff. His technique consisted of the intensity with which he played. Gurdjieff was a physician of music, a virtuoso of vibrations who changed people’s lives with his music." Pupils concurred. Solange Claustres described "strange, haunting melodies that spoke in an unknown tongue to something buried deep within." And Kathryn Hulme remarked: "This was the music of prayer – haunting, disturbing, indescribably beautiful, a music calculated to arouse the deepest longings hidden in the human heart." The receptivity and consciousness of the listener also plays an integral part in how his harmonium music is received, processed and integrated. Gurdjieff once remarked: "Ears are no good for this music, the whole presence must be open to it." Some have sensed that Gurdjieff acted almost as a channel or conduit to higher spiritual energies when he played. Pupil Georgette LeBlanc: "One can see the music pass through him. He plays it, but is not the player." Gurdjieff himself said that he "put the whole of himself" into the improvised music, so much so that he was often exhausted after playing.

Gurdjieff’s Oriental Suite
Metropole Orchestra and The Little Orchestra
Basta Audio Visuals (2006)


Gurdjieff presented a number of public demonstrations of Sacred Gymnastics and Movements from December 13 to 25, 1923 at the Théâtre des Champs Elysées in Paris. Accompanying the performances was music composed by Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann specifically for these events. The music was scored by de Hartmann for an orchestra of 35 members. Later, in January 1924 Gurdjieff gave a series of public demonstrations in New York, Boston and Chicago in which de Hartmann adapted the full orchestral scores for a smaller ensemble of musicians. Under the direction of Gert-Jan Blom (who compiled the Harmonic Development: The Complete Harmonium Recordings 1948-1949) both the Paris and American orchestral and ensemble versions of the music were recorded for the first time by the Metropole Orchestra and The Little Orchestra. The result is a 4-CD recording which is faithful to the original music presented in 1923-1924.

Gurdjieff - de Hartmann
Laurence Rosenthal
Windemere Music (2006)


Laurence Rosenthal arranged and orchestrated selections of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann piano music for inclusion in the musical score of Peter Brook’s film Meetings with Remarkable Men. The current CD contains 21 pieces of piano music, ranging in length from 51 seconds to almost 11 minutes. The 21 selections vary greatly in intent and atmosphere, with titles that allude to Greek, Kurdish, Assyrian, Armenian, Caucasian and Dervish influences. Rosenthal: "The music ranges from the arcane mystery of some of his sacred hymns, through pieces of subjective and personal expression or grave, ceremonial dancing, all the way to light-hearted evocations of folk songs and dances of the people among whom he lived and travelled."

Gurdjieff - de Hartmann Volume 2
Laurence Rosenthal
Windemere Music (2007)


The 25 selections of Gurdjieff/de Hartmann piano music include a spectrum of influences ranging from traditional Eastern folk songs and dances, Western secular music, Christian liturgy, Sufi chants, as well as prayers and sacred hymns from unknown sources. "The range of feeling stretches from the most light-hearted through varying modes of subjectivity and finally to pieces which are completely impersonal, yet of profound inwardness and mystery. These last, as in all music of deep interiority, require from the listener a state of inner silence and immobility in order for the music to be truly received."

Music of the Prieuré
Rosemary Nott
Dolmen Meadow Editions (2011)


Rosemary Nott became a pupil of Gurdjieff in the 1920s at the Prieuré in France where she was introduced to the collaborative musical compositions of Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann. She studied piano with de Hartmann during the 1920s and 1930s and taught the Movements to groups in England directed by P.D. Ouspensky. She also provided musical accompaniments to the Movements on piano. In the last years of her life in 1974 and 1975, she made a number of recordings of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music informally at her London home, which form the content of the current CD. The 20 selections represent a range of music, including hymns, prayers, music for the Movements, and works reminiscent of the Middle East. Her simple and direct playing reflects her connection to the music’s very source.

Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff
The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble
ECM Records (2011)


During Gurdjieff’s travels he heard a wide variety of Eastern music performed on traditional folk instruments, many of which he collected and later displayed at the Château du Prieuré. Most of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music has been played on the piano. What is intriguing about this album is the range of instruments chosen to reflect the regions and cultures that Gurdjieff visited. "Eastern musical traditions are strongly characterized by unique instruments and instrumental combinations, and the character and the ‘soul’ of this music is intrinsically connected to the lands of its birth and the instruments which gave it expression. These indigenous Eastern instruments are capable of producing microtonal intervals, rhythms and other nuances that are essential parts of Eastern music." Musical arranger Levon Eskenian has assembled a 14-member ensemble drawn from Armenia’s leading folk instrumentalists playing a variety of traditional Eastern folk instruments, such as the duduk, aud, santur, tombak, dhal, saz and tar.