The track notes are in numerical order. The sequence on the CDs is different as it is based on the set lists from the demonstrations. Numbers with a likely relationship to scenes or dances from The Struggle of the Magicians are accompanied by relevant quotes from the scenario as privately published by the Stourton Press in 1957.
No [Marche, Entrance March, Chords]
This was crossed out in all the instrument folders but resurrected for our project. It was possibly intended as walk-on music for the pupils, with the end chords used for assuming the positions needed for the First Obligatory. De Hartmann describes a rehearsal of Gurdjieff with a group of Dalcroze students in Tiflis:
… [H] e put them all in one row in front of him and said: “Before beginning any work in Sacred Gymnastics, you must learn how to turn. “He showed them how to turn in the military way, this turning being accompanied by my chords on the piano.75
N1 [First Obligatory, Throwing Out Arms]
The Six Obligatories were taught by Gurdjieff to Jeanne de Salzmann’s Dalcroze pupils in Tiflis in 1919. Later, at the Prieure, movements practice always began with the Obligatories and every pupil was required to learn them.
On the cover page of the undated manuscript score for N1 is written in Russian:Obligatory Exercises: Salute, Arms forward, Sun, Counting, Mazurka, suggesting a sequence of Ni-N2-N3-N4~N3bis-N5. This indicates that, at the time this score was written, the Obligatories were performed in a different sequence. This concurs with Jessmin Howarth’s remark about the order of the Obligatories at the Prieure, although she remembers a different sequence: Ni-N2-N3bis-N4-N3-N5. However, during the demonstrations the sequence followed the numerical order, as can be seen on the set lists.
N2 [Second Obligatory, First March, Salute]
A tasteful countermelody is added in the flute(s) and the clarinet, which gives the music a totally different character from the piano version. Note the addition of the harpsichord in the full orchestra version on Disc 1. The set list indicates four repeats.
N3 [Third Obligatory, March Forward, Arms Forward]
In this composition, a lovely melody has been added in the cello (doubled by oboe n in the full orchestra version), played espressivo. This melody completely changes the character of the piece compared to the piano music. At the Prieure, de Hartmann usually performed this composition on the harmonium. The set list indicates two repeats.
tij,bis [Fourth Obligatory, Counting]
A detail of interest is the second end-chord of N3bis, which the pupils need to get up from a kneeling to a standing position. This chord was added in pencil to the parts by the musicians during the rehearsals in Paris. The change was not added to de Hartmann’s score, which only has one end-chord. A special mention of the added end-chord is even made on the American set list. The set list indicates three repeats.
N4 [Fifth Obligatory, Note Values, Sun] The set list indicates two repeats.
N5 [Sixth Obligatory, Mazurka]
In the introductions, which were read from the stage before the movements were shown, the Obligatories are described as originating from the Temple of Medicine at Sari in Tibet (N1, N2 & N3) and the artificial caves of Kidjera in Kafiristan (N3bis, N4 & N5). Given their alleged exotic origins, it seems strange that the music for the Six Obligatories is so Western in character. While they were in Essentuki, Gurdjieff told Thomas de Hartmann that the music for his Sacred Gymnastics came from a study book for the guitar.77 Whether this is true or not is difficult to determine, but this typical Polish Mazurka does make one wonder. The set list indicates three repeats for N5.
N6 [Central Group, Old Group, Initiation of a Priestess] The grandeur of this orchestration makes it all the more difficult to accept that the movement belonging to it has been lost. The original score for this composition is also missing; only the individual parts survived.
J. G. Bennett first saw this movement performed in Constantinople in 1920 during a demonstration of Gurdjieff’s dances:
Hartmann began playing. The first dance was accompanied by a magnificent slow theme that was more like a Greek anthem than an Eastern temple dance. The dance itself was very simple—almost like Swedish gymnastics. Each dance lasted only one or two minutes. The action grew more and more intense. After a time, the straight lines were broken up and the performers placed themselves in some intricate pattern. Before the dance began, one of the men said in English: “The exercise that will follow represents the Initiation of a Priestess. It comes from a cave temple in the Hindu Kush.” This was the most impressive and moving event of the evening. The exercise lasted much longer than the others. The part of the priestess, who scarcely moved at all, was taken by a tall and very beautiful woman. The expression of her face conveyed the feeling of complete withdrawal from the outer world. She seemed unaware of the complicated weaving movements of the men and women surrounding her. I had never before seen such a beautiful dance, or heard such strangely disturbing music/8
Katherine Mansfield, who saw this movement performed at the Prieure, wrote,
There is one which takes about 7 minutes and it contains the whole life of a woman—but everything1. Nothing is left out. It taught me, it gave me more of woman’s life than any book or poem. There was even room for Flaubert’s “Coeur Simple” in it, and for Princess Marya… Mysterious.
N7 [Dervishes with Hatchets, Ho-Ya]
Special costumes were made for all the different movements. Some of these were of quite elaborate design, as can be seen in the two newspaper photos of the costumes for the Ho-Ya Dervish below.
N8 [The Great Prayer, The Big Prayer, Dervishes with Counting] This beautiful dance describes death and rebirth in a compelling way, including all the stages of aspiration, renouncement, openness to all creation, utter despair, death and finally, the ultimate peace of the soul. The composition is built on a seven-note row for melody and chords:f-g-d>-h-c-$>-e; the dancers take a new position on each melody note. The big chords seem to represent different influences that act upon the mono-phonic melody, as if descending from other spheres.80
Several photos taken in August 1922 indicate that, at least at the time, The Great Prayer was practised with blindfolds. This is confirmed by a sketched choreography by Boris Ferapontoff of the positions from The Great Prayer, where he writes: “Big Prayer of the Dervishes, with blindfolds.” The early title Dervishes with Counting for this piece refers to the fact that this movement was performed with the pupils counting the beats for each position, in Russian.
A point of interest in de Hartmann’s score is the ending of the piece. Normally, in the piano music, there are three arpeggiated chords—usually performed very softly and rubato—plus an end chord, performed slightly louder.
In the orchestral score however, de Hartmann requests^(fortissimo) and, evenjfjff (fortisissimo) during those final measures, and played a tempo. Additionally, above this section in the score de Hartmann writes: “three times.” Since this interesting suggestion never made it into the musicians’ parts (which were written out from the score at a later time, and reflect what was actually played during the shows) we have not incorporated the triple ending into our recording.
N9 [First Dervish Prayer, Camel’s Step]
The sheet music for N9 specifically warns the musicians to expect a stop. Although both the Elysees and the Carnegie Hall printed programmes contain a special “Exercice d’Arret, avec explication” [Stop Exercise with explanation] in the first set, stops were apparently also used as a surprise element during the second set.
N10 [Trembling Dervish, Warrior Dervish, Vertical] This orchestral version only uses the taksim (a solo improvisation on a prescribed scale, performed in this arrangement by the flute) at the beginning of the piece. In the published piano version81 as well as in the 1951 movements film by Jeanne de Salzmann, it is also used at the end. During thetaksim the dancers sit on their knees in a collected state, forming a defensive V-shape, pointing forward.
This deeply moving clarinet and strings lamento was specially added to the set list for the American demonstrations as an introduction to Nil.
Nn [Funeral of a Dervish, Funeral Ceremony]
Nn is repeated three times in the Paris demonstration, without the introduction Nio’/z,and only twice in the American programme, but now with Nio1^ added. The movement belonging to this solemn music has been lost.
N12 [The Sacred Goose, Geese, Swans]
So far, we only know the identity of one of the musicians who originally performed this music, cellist Mikhail Bukinik (1872-1947). According to de Hartmann he liked all the orchestrated music that they performed very much, but especially the melody called “Geese.”
The following women’s dances (Ni3, N14, Ni4bis, N15) were first developed by Gurdjieff in Tiflis, while working with Jeanne de Salzmann’s Dal-croze pupils:
N13 [Oriental Dance, Woman’s Dance in A-Minor]
N14 [Essentuki Obligatory, Woman’s Dance #2, Prayer #1]
Ni4bis [The Waltz]
N15 [Essentuki Women’s Dance in G-Minor, Women of Essentuki]
N16 [Les Automates]
An undated, early version of Orage’s introductory notes explains that N16 was part of a series of Automatons which had the following purpose:
Exercises from the series of Automatons. This exercise explores how the body movesautomatically in an angular fashion and as a whole. These movements should resemble the movements and the mechanical steps of a puppet. This exercise is very difficult to execute in a satisfactory way, because to give the impression of a perfectly automated exterior requires a very high level of inner work.
N17 [The Fall of the Priestess, Polyrhythms]
This composition is briefly mentioned in Orage’s notes for the General Introduction for the American demonstrations, but we have found no evidence that it was actually performed by the orchestra. The instrument folders from the Paris orchestrations contain the orchestral parts for this composition, but the score is missing. The only reference to it is by de Hartmann in his book where he remembers that after the whole four hour programme had been performed at Leslie Hall, Gurdjieff asked him to play N17 with the pupils performing the movements, not on the stage but on the floor of the hall, while people were leaving the venue. This anti-climax spoiled the evening for de Hartmann. The movement for N17 was first taught by Gurdjieff to his pupils during the summer of 1923, when—on hot days—movements practice took place in the Prieure garden near the avenue of the lime trees.
A choreography of the movement, in Jessmin Howarth’s hand, features the intriguing note: “Bells on feet.”
N18 [The Spinners]
N18, N19 and N26 are generally referred to as the Work Dances. They depict the various crafts involved in the spinning of wool, cutting leather, knitting socks and making shoes, and carpet weaving.
Nig [The Shoemaker]
The American set list indicates “repeat only 32 bars,” meaning that after the piece has been played once through, only the first thirty-two bars are repeated. In the Paris demonstrations, the whole piece is repeated. See note for N18.
N20 [Big Group]
This movement was based on the Law of Seven, a central aspect of Gurdjieff’s teaching. N20 was repeated in the Paris shows (Da Capo) but played only once in the American programme. A typewritten document, found among de Hartmann’s papers, explains that:
Although special costumes from the environs where the movements originated have been prepared for all the movements that are shown, the costume
changes take so long and are so boring to wait for, that we have decided not to show the exercises in the special costumes, hut to keep them the same all the time.
According to Orage’s introduction for N20 and N21, these movements originated from two sects that “profess a Christianity tinged with Suf-ism.”
The newspaper photo shows “three disciples of Gurdjieff in costume of Sufi Christians…” The dark, monk-like robes in the photo contrast sharply with the white, pyjama-like tunics that the pupils usually wore during the demonstrations. The movement for N20 has been lost.
N21 [The Big Seven, Canon of Seven]
See note for N20. This movement consists of seven harmonious positions, performed in a slow canon.
N2ibis [Ending for The Big Seven]
The set list clearly states “fin a la troisieme” [ending in the third repeat], and at that point there is a marking in the parts guiding the players to a coda named N2ibis”supplement pour le groupe des 7″ [supplement for the group of 7]. The movement for this section of the piece has been lost.
N22 [Round Dance in G-Minor, Wine Dance]
Rosemary Nott, on her private recording of it, calls this composition Wine Dance.
N23 [Greek Chorovod, Music for the Greek Round]
Most of the melody parts for this composition indicate cantando.
N24 [Big Chorovod, Women’s Round Dance, Caucasian Round] The American set list indicates “repeat only two phrases.” This simple piece is turned into a real showcase by de Hartmann. The composition consists of only twelve bars, and in each new repeat he changes the instrumentation and presents yet another musical variation of the theme, without ever repeating himself. It is played once through, and then jumps back to the beginning, repeating only the first two musical phrases, followed by the end chord (pour finir).
N25 [Pithia, Pythoness]
This dreamy, hypnotic piece was always performed at the end of the movements programme, both in Paris and in the American demonstrations. The movement that belongs to it has been lost. After N25, the four-hour programme was completed with the section of tricks, half-tricks and super-normal phenomena that the pupils worked on constantly during 1923.
The title Clapping was found in a contemporary list and indicates that this music was intended to accompany a movement that includes a clapping exercise.
N26 [Rugs, Rug Weaving #2, Carpet Weaving]
See note for N18. In this Work Dance the entire process of carpet weaving is depicted: the selection of the wool, the knotting of the wool three times, the cutting of the thread with a little knife (represented in this orchestration by the xylophone note!), checking of the knots and pressing them into place with a comb.
The music for this miniature Mevlevi Sema is derived from themes from the actual whirling dervishes. De Hartmann heard this music when he visited the mosque of Pera, or Beyoglu, as it is known today, with Gurdjieff in the autumn of 1920. During the Institute’s stay in Constantinople, de Hartmann had been asked by a pasha if he would give a concert with his orchestra to raise money for the Turkish press. Gurdjieff jumped at the opportunity and proposed a demonstration of Eastern dances together with the orchestra. As this demonstration was very successful, it was repeated several times in Constantinople and other nearby places, the pasha was often in the audience. One day, he invited de Hartmann and Gurdjieff to see the whirling dervishes in the mosque. De Hartmann remembers:
After we had seen them turning several times, the pasha invited Mr Gurdjieff and me to an underground room of the mosque, where it was cool even on hot days, and there we sat on carpets drinking Turkish coffee while the musicians who had just played for thedervishes gave a concert of the best Turkish music with flute and drum. I wished to take notes, but was told 1 could only listen. So I paid close attention and as soon as I returned home wrote down everything I could remember. These finest musicians and experts of Turkish music all belonged to the same Meulem order. Their Turkish music was as beautiful as the mosque itself and left aprofound impression.83
N27 never quite settled in the programme, shifting from the end of set two (Paris) to the beginning of set three (America) to the end of set one for the first Carnegie Hall performance on 3 March.
This piece sounds like it may have been some kind of theatrical or curtain-music, possibly for a scene from the ballet, but the score contains no information confirming this.
The Lezginka is a traditional dance from Dagestan in the extreme south of the Russian Federation, bordering on the Caucasian foothills. Dagestan is famous for its folk craft and is also called “the land of languages” because of its many tribes, some of which speak as much as thirty different languages. One of the Dagestani mountain tribes, the Lezgins, who specialize in carpet weaving, are said to have originated the impetuous, whirling Lezginka dance with its characteristic, sudden knee-drops. See note for N35.
N29 [Armenian Dance, Lily]
The score has “Lily” written on the front page, indicating that it was a solo dance for Armenian-born Lily Galumian who had joined Gurdjieff’s Institute in Tiflis in 1919.This concurs with a quote from Act Three of the scenario in which a whole series of ethnic dances is described, including a solo dance from Armenia. See note for N35.
N30 [Black Magician]
An early version of Orage’s introduction notes, found among de Hartmann’s papers, describes this composition as “a ritual of the Dzjinparaz, a sect of devil worshippers from the environs of Gelat, in Baluchistan.”
In The Struggle of the Magicians there is a description of the Black Magician’s school:
This is the school of the celebrated Black Magician. When the curtain rises some of his pupils are moving about the cave; others are sitting down. A few are laying out cards asthough telling fortunes; some are studying the lines of each other’s hands, and some—collected in a corner—are preparing potions. The pupils are men and women of varying ages, some young, others older, hut all of unpleasing appearance. One or two are deformed, thin with disagreeable shifty eyes, dishevelled hair and warts. The movements of all are sharp, angular and jerky. Their attitude towards each other is hostile and derisive. They are dressed in a slovenly fashion in short violet-coloured coats and black trousers. On their feet are Turkish slippers. The only difference between the dress of the men and the women is that the women wear belts of black cord and have black handkerchiefs on their heads. Some of them are tattooed on the face and hands.
One of the pupils near the throne begins slowly to make strange, rhythmic movements which apparently please the others, for one by one they leave their various occupations and join him. As their number increases, the movements quicken and become more and more varied and gradually they form themselves into a ring and begin to revolve madly round the throne. At the moment of greatest frenzy a noise and a knocking are heard at the left of the cave. Instantly the ring breaks up.
Disordered movements and bustle follow. Jostling one another with fear, the pupils rush back to their places and snatch up their former occupations trying to give the impression that they have never interrupted them. From the inner cave the Black Magician enters. He is a man of medium height, lean, with a short half-grey beard, black eyes with long eyelashes and thick unkempt hair. His movements are jerky with a characteristic manner of his own, his glance is contemptuously piercing. He is dressed in a short black silk coat beneath which is seen a glowing crimson under-garment a little longer than coat. On his feet are Turkish
slippers; on his head a black skullcap.
In his hand is a long whip, and on his breast, hanging from a black silk cord, is a golden pentacle. At the Magician’s entrance all fall on their faces. He goes to the throne without looking at anyone; on the way he even steps on one of the pupils. He seats himself. (The symbol above the throne lights up at this moment.) He throws open his coat, baring his breast and his belly. The pupils in turn go up and kiss him on the belly. With a kick he knocks one of them over. The others with cowardly malevolence mock at the fallen one. When the ceremony of kissing the belly is ended, the pupils at the Magician’s order, place themselves in rows to right and left of him and at a sign from him they begin to perform various movements.84 (from: Act Four)
It is our impression that this elaborate piece is one of de Hartmann’s compositions for the ballet, written without Gurdjieff’s involvement.
This composition is not musically related to numbers 25 (White Magic] and 25bis(Black Magic) from Gurdjieff’s later set of movements The Thirty-Nine Series. These were created between circa 1940-1949; de Hartmann, who never actually saw these movements performed by a group, composed music for them after Gurdjieff’s death.85The theme of the white and the black magician that originates in the scenario for The Struggle of the Magicians is a recurring motif throughout Gurdjieff’s life.
N31 [Tempo di Valse]
It is difficult to imagine what this beautiful but schmaltzy, Viennese waltz was intended for. De Hartmann wrote this especially for the American demonstrations, but we have found no confirmation that it was actually performed by the Little Orchestra. The score contains no indication apart from Tempo di Valse.
Orage describes N32 in his typewritten introduction for the demonstrations in America:
In Asia, especially in Central Asia, unusual pilgrimages are frequent. It is the custom of the people to inflict suffering upon themselves in order to emphasise a vow of devotion. So they travel to the holy spot which is the object of their journey and which may he far or near from their place of abode, in some uncommon or painful manner such as walking barefoot or backwards or turning somersaults or on their knees. We shall demonstrate a like way of travel. It is one which is commonly practised in Caucasia and Turkestan where it is called “measuring the way by one’s length.” And the way is sometimes very long indeed. There are cases known where it has been as much as 800 miles.
From his home to the sanctified spot, in all weathers, carrying according to his vow or necessity packs weighing up to 100 lbs, the pilgrim will not advance but in the fashion he has prescribed himself. And it is not seldom that the pilgrim according to his promise, will hold in his hand some fragile object intended as a gift to the holy man whose tomb he is going to visit, and the safe carrying of which is rendered extremely difficult by the way of travel. Though such a pilgrimage often causes wounds which according to the ideas of a Western man must end in blood poisoning, yet the observers have never been able to discover any case in which these wounds were not healed the next day.
This piece was especially prepared by de Hartmann for the demonstrations in America, although it was orchestrated for the line-up of the Paris orchestra. It can be concluded that the decision to use the Little Orchestra had not yet been taken when de Hartmann orchestrated N32.
C. S. Nott mentions this composition in his detailed description of the first private demonstration at Leslie Hall on 23 January 1924 and Gorham Munson remembers N32 being performed during the second demonstration at the Neighborhood Playhouse on 2February.
Since no indication was found in the score and parts, or in the surviving set lists from the performances, that N32 was performed by the Little Orchestra, it seems reasonable to assume that de Hartmann must have accompanied this alone, at the piano.
After having been used during the first two demonstrations of the American tour, N32 had been dropped by the time of the first Carnegie Hall appearance on 3 March, according to the printed programme for that event. There is no further mention of it in any of the reviews from the demonstrations in Boston and Chicago.
N33 [Untitled Dance]
N34 [Turkish Dance]
N35 [Arabian Dance]
N33, N34 and N35, together with N28 and N29, may have been intended for the following scene from The Struggle of the Magicians:
As soon as the music starts, the dancers of the harem make their appearance entering by pairs, dancing. These dancers have all been brought from different countries. For their beauty, as well as their skill and agility, they are considered to be the finest in the land. People have come from afar simply to see them. No stranger seeing their group dances could help being enraptured by them, and when each one dances the dance of her own country, the cleverest judges are moved to ecstasy. There are twelve dancers, all of them dressed in their national costumes. Today, either because they feel the mood of their master or because it is long since they have danced before him, they dance with exceptional abandon. First, a Tibetan performs one of the dances of her mysterious fatherland. Next, an Armenian from Mousha dances to the accompaniment of slow music an amorous dance of her country, almost drowsy, but full of hidden fire. She is followed by an Osetinka of the Cauca-
sus in a dance light as air. Then a Gipsy, a daughter of the people who have forgotten their homeland, in a burning, whirling dance seems to speak of the freedom of the steppes and the distant fires of the camp. After her, an Arabian, beginning slowly then quickening, and quickening her movements, attains a mad pace, then suddenly relaxes and gradually swoons in ecstasy. Then a Baluchistani, a Georgian, a Persian, an Indian nautch girl —each one by her movements—manifests the soul, the nature, the temperament and the character of her country.86 (from: Act Three)
from a book “Oriental Suite”