Saturday, October 22, 2011

In review--Gurdjieff's Spiritual Journey

The Gurdjieff Folk Instrument Ensemble
Led by Levon Eskenian
Music of Georges I.  Gurdjieff

Many of you reading this review probably have never heard Armenian folk music, though you have heard most of the instruments on Levon Eskenian and The Gurdjieff Folk Instrument Ensemble's recording Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff if you have listened to traditional music of Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, and India.  This folk ensemble features the traditional Armenian reed instrument duduk which both Real World Records and World Village have featured on several recordings.  Other instruments that might sound familiar to your ears are the Iranian spiked fiddle (kamancha), the Turkish saz (long-neck lute), the Arabic tombak (drum) and oud, as well as, the dohl drum and santur from India.  To say that Music of Georges I. Gurdjieff falls into exotic territory is an understatement, but the Gurdjieff who studied many spiritual paths, also composed transcendental music rife with his philosophies.

For the sake of this short review, I won’t go into biographical details of the Armenian composer’s fascinating life and projects.  Suffice to say that the worldly composer found inspiration in the folk songs of his homeland as well as, the chants and songs here date back to pre-Christian Armenia, but also represent music from Greece, Arabia, Iran, Kurdistan, Turkey, and surrounding areas.  Personally I love this music performed on some of my favorite Middle Eastern instruments.  The scales and modes though not totally familiar to my ears allow me to explore diverse moods while feeling spiritually-centered.  I’m currently listening to the meditative Sayyid Chant and Dance No. 10 with features two lutes exploring modes and soon a reed flute and a zither join the lutes reaching a delightful conclusion. 

The flute continues into the next track, Sayyid Chant and Dance No. 29.  I’m not sure what the chant in the title refers to since this is an instrumental album in which we reap the benefit of listening to master musicians at work.  While I’m barely familiar with Gurdjieff, only having heard one other recording of his work on ECM, I feel that the music here is accessible to fans of world and traditional music.  Fans of Silk Road music will also have the right map for following the music. 

I end this review with this intriguing quote from the liner notes, “…After preparing for  a life in both science and religion with studies in the fields of medicine, psychology and theology, Gurdjieff and a group of fellow “Seekers of Truth” set out on a search to understand the significance of life on earth and in man’s place in the cosmos.”  Heady work to say the least. 

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