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Trinity - the first CD from The Ridley Ensemble
View the CD cover and notes here
Listen to an excerpt here
The CD is now available, price $20, from:

"By the Way Books" - click here

"Gurdjieff Books and Music" - click here

The Ridley Ensemble

"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 Stage.”

"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 in style. 
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 instrumental ensemble.

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