D. HOWARTH – MUSIC FOR THE GURDJIEFF MOVEMENTS
A REPORT, COMMENTS AND SUGGESTIONS
During many years of supervising approximately 1500 Movements pupils in South America (1985-1997), we often had to “create” classes, train instructors, ”invent” musical accompaniments and cope with special conditions which might even include:
Government opposition, (e.g. confiscation of materials, arrests of group members, cancellation of seminars, etc.)
Social unrest (bombings in Lima, kidnapping of group members in Chile, armed revolution during Caracas seminar, murders at Peru country house, cars stolen during Rio meetings, general strikes, etc.)
Natural and physical problems (hurricanes, 120 degree heat, floods, earthquake, power-line contamination, primitive air and road transportation, etc.)
Group poverty (Few decent meeting rooms or Movements halls, lack of privacy, poor ventilation, no air-conditioning, unfinished floors, no changing rooms, termite infested second-hand pianos, mildewed books and music, etc. Sometimes a parking lot was used, or the basement of a factory, back room of a restaurant, an office, greenhouse, or garage.)
Individual poverty (few telephones for instructors or musicians, 5-hour bus trips to meetings, lack of movement shoes, few pianos in homes or music lessons for children, sacrifice to purchase music books, inadequate medical care etc.)
Illness (cholera epidemics, high altitude, unrefrigerated food, tropical fevers, poisonous snakes, spiders and scorpions, malarial mosquitoes, drug addiction, etc…
…Yet somehow we ended up with viable, useful classes,…some very meaningful work….and even, sometimes, exemplary execution! (Witness some of the video tapes.)
To ensure the “proper” (i.e. as Mr. Gurdjieff would have wished it!) music for Movement classes, I suggest the following aspects be remembered andconsidered…………
BEGINNING MOVEMENT PIANISTS ARE USUALLY HESITANT AND INSECURE… especially those who rightly appreciate how essential the right music is for a real study of Gurdjieff’s extraordinary and valuable Movements.
Much of this music is certainly very difficult to play, hard to read, requests for improvisation are intimidating, and “most of the other pianists seem to have much more training and experience.”
But the awed, anxious beginner can be quickly reassured that even a little something played simply and sensitively on the piano is already useful…certainly better than just a drum. And we often found it productive to suggest that they start by learning just onemovement sufficiently well to go sometimes to the piano and relieve the regular pianist when that exercise is asked for. They might then learn a second, and ultimately develop a repertoire, more facility, etc. (or they could try duets with someone else, or only the left hand part with a melody instrument such as violin, flute, electric keyboard, or play a right hand melody to someone’s drum accompaniment, etc.)
….Or, on the contrary:
BEGINNING PIANISTS MAY BE OVER-CONFIDENT…in which case they should be reminded that they are there as accompanists not soloists and that “though we appreciate that good accompanying is difficult and an art unto itself,”… etc.
TRUE FOR ALL PIANISTS, WHETHER BEGINNERS OR VETERANS.. (as well as the instructors who work with them) .Their own work should be done sincerely and intensively, before and after, not during the class. …“a class is not the time for the pianist to work on himself.” (J. Howarth). In the class it is only the executants’ work that is important. The pianist’s sole function is to support their work.
SO THE PIANIST SHOULD BE PROVIDED WITH, (IN FACT HE SHOULD DEMAND) ANY AND EVERY HELP HE NEEDS TO ACCOMPLISH THIS DIFFICULT TASK TO THE UTMOST OF HIS ABILITY INCLUDING:
A decent, well-tuned piano, with an adjustable bench set at an angle convenient for seeing the class, (or a mirror to watch the class if proper placement of the piano is impossible.)
Sufficient light to read music.
Proper acoustics to hear instructor and judge volume to be played.
The right music, clearly printed, professionally copied (on paper that won’t blow away or need to be put in reflecting cellophane pages) and taking advantage of any new publications, computerized versions (e.g. as worked out in Argentina, Australia, Toronto, Philadelphia, etc.) or improved hand-copied versions. (various available), up-to-date corrections of printing errors, etc.
His own copies of the music. Pianists trusted to play for a class should be trusted with their own sheets to mark up, correct, take home to practice, prepare improvised variations and, heeding Mrs. Howarth’s practical heart-felt advice: “Memorize sufficiently to be able to watch the class!”
A detailed index including identification of the date and composer as well as an indication of whether the Movement itself is from Mr. Gurdjieff, Mme. de Salzmann or someone else. (especially if it is an instructor’s own amateur invention.) Time and initiative should be given to comparing and cross-referencing of alternate names or numbers, other versions or compositions that can be used, traditional combinations of exercises, their order, etc. (e.g. that the Pythagoras 3 is the “Malista” but that theMazurka in the “39” is not the same as that in the Obligatories, the Dervish 7 and the Seven Positions (“No. 7”) both have the same rhythm but are quite different in character and the music is not interchangeable, etc.)
Recordings to listen to, helpful suggestions to read, capsule explanations of the type of “feeling” or “tonicity” required……such as:
Comparative metronome markings (e.g. “as done in 1964 film”, “as done in Foundation beginners’ class. etc.).
Correct pedaling for the “Big Seven” to support even smooth body movement.
Inserting “PP” for first two introductory chords of the Note Values (Mrs. Howarth’s requirement to avoid class tensing up.)
Replacing the “slur” before last chord of the Slow Second Obligatory which accompanies the final foot slide and is in four-hand version but missing from the regular version.
Rewriting the left hand rhythm of the Forming Twos which should really be shown as an eighth note, an eighth rest and two more eighths since the three little knee bends should be absolutely equal (not first one accented.) (Similar to the Thirty Gestures notation)
Clarify counts, sequences or formulas (e.g. Forty Positions, or the revised sequence of Remorse, Fr#21, etc.)
Advance notification from the instructor, (days not minutes!)specifying which Movements to prepare for, and “how”, (in what tempo and mood, etc.) they will be taught (especially if any improvisation is necessary).
Interest and cooperation of the instructor to help adjust, adapt, change music as may be needed to achieve highest quality for the class, while still keeping absolutely true to the character of the Movement.
Even if the instructor is accustomed to and prefers certain music, one might;
Use alternate music while the class is learning the exercise,
Cut some notes from over-elaborate runs to ensure a steady tempo.
Play only the left hand, Join a partner and try four hands.
Use the lower stave of the written music as a base for an improvised right hand giving a fresh melody without losing the count or harmonic resolutions.
Transpose something to make it easier to sing (La Gamme)…
Or easier to sight-read (Multiplication Fr. 34… The five sharp key signature can be eliminated by simply raising it a semi-tone.)
Recopy by hand to simplify (e.g. high notes can be written in the usual stave and marked “play two octaves higher”, or unreadable arpeggios shown as chords to be rolled as in Edward Michael’s Christ,-Mohamet,-Boudha,-Lama, already a nightmare of three staves (three hands?) and six flats!
Rewrite for certain special uses. If the“Tableaux“(Fr.3) is being done as a multiplication, one doesn’t need the triplets in the eleventh and twelfth measures (intended to accompany turning as people return to place) and “The Big Seven”properly done (all in canon) needs 27 measures and a final chord. So choose 4 measures to cut. (I suggest bars 10-13, second time through, with bar 16 held as a final chord)
Pianists should be “of service”, not martyrs to unnecessary difficulties or “intentional suffering”, (“… useful not used!”) They can be encouraged to initiate and share any practical common-sense suggestions, personal experiences, or helpful short cuts such as:
Recopying faded or badly written music. If there are several pages to an exercise, copies can be taped together to spread out on the music stand thus avoiding page turning, (and the resultant missed beats).
Enlarging difficult to read sheets. And premarking their own music to show the choreography, repeats, where the next file enters, a canon finishes,(such as numbering the measures of “The Great Prayer” etc).
Pianists should share their questions with other pianists, or instructors and try to listen to a good recording or soundtrack to verify their own reading and understanding. (See “Materials Available For Study, pages 9-10)
Above all they should learn really well, do often, and understand the inner effect of the movements they are helping the instructors to pass on. In order to accomplish this, pianists should be given, (in fact they should insist on) an adequate opportunity to physically learn and practice any movements they will play for.
They should tape-record themselves in class, take the tape home and study what happened, what tempos they fell into, how steadily they kept the beat, any accelerations, changes in volume, etc. …and actually attempt doing the movement to their own playing!
This salutary experience will tell them more about what needs improving than any other authority!
Note: In the Gurdjieff movements, with the exception of one “Women’s Prayer”,rubatos, however “lyric” and emotionally appealing to the musician they may be, are inadmissible! (except for an occasional, steady accelerando.) The aim of the music is always to help coordinate the disparate group of pupils so that each will move in an exact way, at an exact moment in a precise unity of themselves and with the other participants. To work on the all-too-common difficulty of keeping a strictly steady tempo… buy and use a metronome! It is most helpful for verifying one’s personal playing habits, monitoring possible trouble spots and natural tendencies and it will also be useful for measuring and recording any especially good or bad tempos arrived at in a class, or suggested by the instructor, etc.
Pianists and instructors should be reminded that all “movement music” is not of the same quality or usefulness. If the music doesn’t really fit what the class is trying to do, don’t presume that they are working wrongly or the instructor is mistaken… BUT also don’t presume that “the music is supposed to be like that to make it more difficult!!!” There may well be printer’s errors, copyist mistakes, or any number of faults. Or it may simply be bad music that shouldn’t be used. You will find that the challenge, the right kind and degree of difficulty for the pupils’ work, is already implicit in the Movement as Mr. Gurdjieff gave it.
It must be remembered that except for specifying and dictating the instrumental orchestrations for the public demonstrations in 1923, THE ONLY MUSIC MR. GURDJIEFF HIMSELF USED FOR ALL HIS OTHER MOVEMENTS WAS SKILLED PIANO IMPROVISATION (usually by Dalcroze-trained Mme. de Salzmann) He demanded “on the spot” support and reinforcement of the proper physical tonicities, tempos, accents, amount of energy needed, emotional quality, etc.
Everyone should be especially alert to such differences as….
a) What de Hartmann “wrote” for the early Movements as dictated and orchestrated by Mr. Gurdjieff for the ’23 and ’24 demonstrations (And even in these there are unfortunate differences between the original orchestrations and the questionable piano versions we use now)
b) What de Hartmann wrote later by himself (after Mr. Gurdjieff died) never having seen a class do the exercises. (One or the other of the Paris class would try to demonstrate to him in his living room and since they often didn’t know any music or had memory lapses, mistakes were made, counts distorted, rhythms changed, etc.)
c) What de Hartmann wrote after arriving in Canada where there was no one to show him exercises, and yet these six pieces (The Multiplication of Oct. 9, Dervish 2, Canon of November 15, 3 Canons, Dur Rud, and Adam and Eve) are better than many of the others because they were based entirely on precise, detailed accurate descriptions and rhythmic outlines written out for him, (by Mrs. Howarth).
d) What was used in the Movements films which contain various qualities of playing by various pianists (but not Mme. de Salzmann herself.) Some of this is excellent but some is more noticeable for virtuosity of technique than real support of the movements.
e) Be discriminating! Someone may produce music which is good for some exercises but less so for others. For instance, some of Helen Adie’s compositions for the “39” are even better than de Hartmann’s from the point of view of our use. How is this possible?
When Mr. Gurdjieff returned to France in 1949, he left Mrs. Howarth to continue teaching in New York, but with no written music or pianist capable of improvisation. Mrs. Adie, in Paris, knowing this, attended Mr. Gurdjieff’s classes and would rush back to her hotel to note down what she could retain of Mme. de Salzmann’s fine improvisations. and mail them to New York. (We have at least twelve of these: French numbers 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 17, 21, 24, 26, 31.) But apparently she didn’t keep copies for herself. They are missing from the Australian group’s publication of her work. (although long ago and again recently, I offered them to Janet Taylor.) But since she was preserving as near as possible Mme. de Salzmann playing, (which was to Mr. Gurdjieff’s evident complete satisfaction) this music can be used as a guide to how exercises were being done then. (Some of which are now undergoing changes and distortions. e.g. The lightness, quick tempo, and eighth note inner rhythm ofMultiplication, Fr.17, or the now wrongly characterized “Pointing Dervish“, which Mr. G.’s class did calmly and centered while singing a sustained note through each section. Adie’s harmonization allows and reflects this, etc.)
We should check up on the source and validity of the music we are using.Who wrote it? When? What understanding did they have? Under whose supervision or guidance did they work? Is it correctly notated? Clearly readable?
A practical, economical aid for everyone concerned would be to augment and correct the existing printed music by compiling and distributing to authorized instructors and pianists “errata pages” clarifying such problems as:
Multiplication, Fr. #34 First six measures should be 4/4, The next section is 6/4, etc.
Machine Group, Fr. #28 A misprinted duplication of the first measure was “corrected” in the new edition only by removing the obviously mistaken repeat of the second “F” by the bar line. But the extra measure itself remains and disturbs the very definite, machine-like character of taking 12 positions then reversing the order, again and again. (repeating 6 measures of 4, for 24 positions). De Hartmann musically emphasizes with a double-time, suspenseful last measure that a new sequence should now begin with an accented “ONE“.
The Mazurka, Fr. 23 (American 15) is certainly not the Mazurka of the Obligatories. (“page 10 of Vol. 1”). It is a very different exercise requiring a different count (a continued sequence of 4/4, 3/4, 3/4, 3/4,) Larry Rosenthal once promised us a composition for it. (?)
The Lord Have Mercy, Fr.11 should, according to the original notes, introduce the “Piu andante” section (the triplets) after the first half, or clockwise cycle of sensation, (16 measures, one for each limb). The new section is indicated as an “intermede” so comes within the exercise,(not at the end of 32 measures.) It consists of three series of displacements, each with special inner work, and then the cycle of sensation is renewed and continued in the opposite direction with the added challenge of continuing the sequence of the head which moves on each five counts. (5,10,15 have been completed, so now it is on the 20 count.) These measures for the cycle of sensation part need to be marked to show a muting or “ PP“ for the last note of each measure. The existing accentuation is wrong. It is a moment of quiet relaxing and lowering of an arm or leg while the interior sensation being gathered is moved into the next limb. Pounding that last bass note each time is very disturbing and tenses the pupils.
Round Dance This version of the left-hand accompaniment is heavy and monotonous and unsuited to the light, youthful character of the dance. (Note the variations of R. Nott’s version)
Shoemaker There is also a preferable, varied left-hand treatment for this. (ré Nott recording.)
Spinning. In the version for ” Four Hands” there is a mistaken repeat of the second section.
Je Veux Avoir L’Etre (I Wish To Have Being.) was originally given with four different rhythms but the film’s shortened version omits the second rhythm (1 11 1 , 1 11 1) There are additional usable versions. (See Materials Available For Study).
Fr. 16 needs the left-hand rhythm continued throughout (refer to film version).
Various music, though unpublished, has been copied, distributed, and for lack of something better, is being widely used. But much of this also needs correction. (e.g. The Canon to Five, written out in 6/4. Requires a count of 9/4, etc.).
(NOTE: Years ago Charles Ketchum and Larry Rosenthal worked with Mrs. Howarth to professionally note many of her specific indications as to dynamics, pedaling, etc. Where is this material?
And Rosemary Nott’s invaluable documenting recordings must have been done from manuscripts. Where are they? (I have asked but Jimmy Nott didn’t think he had them, his widow, Lia, is ”double-checking”, and Adam Nott in London is vague. If all else fails they should be transcribed and compared to piano reductions of the original orchestrations which will soon be recorded in Holland.)
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