"At first it seemed a rather unlikely combination: guitar,
clarinet, and harmonium. But the longer I listened to our little combo,
the more confident I became that indeed what we had here was “the
Gurdjieffian sound,” par excellence."
This so-to-say “unique-common-cosmic-sound” was due, not to the players
of the instruments, but rather to the instruments themselves, their
dispositions. The guitar established the rhythmic element, its tuning
was according to the perfect system of fifths, and its sound relied on
the tautly-tuned plucked string. The clarinet, bringing the melodic
element, was tuned according to the just system of thirds, and it
depended upon the air-blown reed. The harmonium, a much more recent
development, was an artificially-tempered keyboard instrument, and its
tuning, based upon equally-tuned seconds within the octave, served as
the harmonic element. Putting the three together, there were truly
moments when the Sound was made manifest. At least it seemed so to me.
The Sound reminded of Empedocles poem, where he is explaining how the separate elements join.
"Those that are ready for mixture have become affectionate towards each other, made alike by Aphrodite."
Perhaps, as Kingsley argues, the word “ready” should instead be
translated “resistant.” It really doesn’t much matter. The point is
that things that know no blending are made to come together, one way or
another. Goethe sets out the idea in Faust, the poem “Prelude on the
"When unrelated things that know no blending Send forth their vexed, uneasy jarring sound— Who then bestows the rhythmic line euphonious The ordered pulse to stir or soothe the soul Who marshals fragments to a ceremonious And splendid music, universal, whole?"
Our work together as the Ridley Trio was to try and marshal the
fragments together into a splendid music. Granted, on one level, it
depended upon the wish of the players, individually and collectively, to
be adequate vehicles for the music to come through. But on a higher
level, even to consider the players at all cast a certain profanity upon
what was essentially a Divine impulse, so profound as to be beyond the
human element altogether. This sacred impulse, marshaling the three
tonalities into one uniquely blended Sound, could evoke the direct and
profound inner experience of knowing—no, of feeling—the persistent
cosmic struggle between joy and sorrow.
The members of The Ridley Ensemble:
Chris Wertenbaker grew
up in a fishing village the Basque region of the south of France, where
he played in an estudiantina, a group of children ages 11 to 16 who were
taught at the town's expense to play Basque folk music on guitars and
mandolins, and in return would perform, dressed in traditional costumes,
on special occasions. Later he studied flamenco guitar with various
teachers, most prominently David Serva, and for a time earned his living
as a soloist and accompanist to flamenco dancers in North America and
Europe. He developed a great interest in Eastern music and learned to
play the oud and kanoon. Currently he plays solo flamenco guitar, and
also a variety of world music with his band, Port o'Monkeys. He has
long been interested in Gurdjieff and de Hartmann's music and on
interpreting it with a number of instrumental ensembles. Chris is a senior editor at Parabola, and is also a practicing neuro-opthalmologist. His interest in the nature of human consciousness and its role in the universe led him to undergraduate studies in the sciences at Harvard. He continued his training in neuro-science, neurology, and neuro-opthamology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, with an additional year of neuro-opthamology at Columbia Medical School.
Mitzi DeWhitt, a native
Oklahoman, grew up in a town located five miles from the Ponca Indian
reservation. Early on, her acquaintance and growing friendship with
some of the members of the Ponca tribe afforded her access to activities
usually forbidden to outsiders. She was sometime allowed to
participate in the Round Dances; she learned the songs sung by the
elders of the tribe; and she saw first hand how, for the Poncas, music
was treated as a tool for transcending ordinary consciousness. She became passionately interested in the music of indigenous cultures, which led to studies at North Texas University, where she was awarded a full piano scholarship in the Master’s program and majored in piano performance under the tutelage of Dr. William Race. Later, after receiving a double Master’s degree in both Piano and Theory from the University of Oklahoma, she continued with her Ph.D program, meanwhile moving to Wichita, Kansas, where she was employed by the Olive
W.Garvey Center for the Healing Arts. Here, she conducted research
into the effects of music on reaching and exploring non-ordinary levels
of human consciousness. Her work, which also included studying the
effect of music upon plants, utilized Kirlian photography and cymatics
and pyramidal structures (including those found in musical scales), in
order to explore how particular vibrations might influence living
systems. For the past four decades, she has been studying and playing
the music of Gurdjieff/deHartmann. She lives in Delaware.
Richard Finestone was born
in Philadelphia and has lived in the area his entire life. He started
playing clarinet in the second grade and has continued his connection
with music throughout his life. The Work in Philadelphia has given him the
opportunity to deepen his life long love of music, and to work with
others on instrumental versions of the Gurdjieff/deHartmann music.
Richard has been working with the Movements for forty years.
The Music of G.I. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann
The music of G.I. Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann is the result of an extraordinary collaboration between these two men.
Gurdjieff is known as a man who brought a new spiritual teaching from
the East to the Western world early in the 20th century. He had a
profound understanding of music and its effects on people’s states, and
an accurate memory of the music he had heard all over Asia and the
Middle East, but he had little formal musical training.
De Hartmann was an accomplished conservatory trained pianist and
composer. He became a pupil of Gurdjieff’s in 1916. In the 1920s, over a
two year period, they created over 300 piano pieces. They range widely
Recently published by Schott in four volumes, the titles of the volumes
give a sense of the range of the music. Volumes 1 and 2 are called
“Asian Songs and Rhythms,” and “Music of the Sayyids and the
Dervishes”. The third and fourth volumes consist mainly of hymns,
prayers, and rituals, many of which are most effectively left as piano
pieces. Thus, most of our material is from the first two volumes. Some
of these pieces clearly reflect Eastern musical styles, and so this
group, The Ridley Ensemble, as well as others, has arranged them for an