Thursday, 27 March 2008

Easter and Sacred Hymns

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff, a mystic from the first half of the last century, wrote a considerable body of music, much in collaboration with the Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, who was responsible for the piano arrangements for a series of Gurdjieff's hymns.

I have had a recording of these performed by the jazz pianist Keith Jarrett for Manfred Eicher's idiosyncratic ECM label for the last 20 years now, and it has always been a favourite. Like most of my records though, it sits unplayed for long periods, suddenly finding itself back at the front of the queue and on it's way back to my turntable. I'm always surprised by how peaceful and meditative this music is. When I first heard it I thought 'Satie' but each time I hear it again I wonder how I could have ever made that comparison. But the music is certainly spare, with silence almost as significant as the piano, and Jarrett's performances, as so often, are impeccably well judged. Mostly it is the sense of timing that lends this curious and rather child-like music the spiritual quality so manifest in this recording.

I've had this LP out over the past week or so, the pleasure of listening renewed as always. I have to admit that I don't often look at the track listings for such albums, finding they come between me and my own responses to what I'm hearing, but looking carefully (possibly for the first time) at the back cover I found that in fact it was Easter music. Even for an atheist like myself, it did seem singularly apt.

It's a little known record, but thanks to Eicher's commitment to artistry rather than commerce 'Sacred Hymns of G.I. Gurdjieff' remains in the catalogue and is well worth seeking out.

1 comment:

Rebecca Davis Winters said...

Hi Stephen! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I am indeed uplifted and cheered by the Blind Owl Wilson art and by his many fans like yourself.