I presented this program of beautiful and unusual music – created through a unique collaboration between Georgi Gurdjieff and Thomas de Hartmann – in a concert last month in NYC at the Rubin Museum. I have been wanting to record this repertoire since first discovering it over 10 years ago. These meditative and profound works fit perfectly into my search for new and world music that expands the traditional Classical canon.
Georgi Ivanovich Gurdjieff was a Greek-Armenian mystic who was active in the early 20th century. He was widely known as a spiritual teacher, who organized various schools to teach his methods in Europe, most notably in Fontainebleau, France, where he welcomed pupils from around the world.
Thomas de Hartmann was a classmate of Prokofiev (you can understand
my excitement now!) and an excellent composer in his own right. In these
collaborations, he notated music that Gurdjieff performed, adding
harmony and structure. Through an iterative process, the pair produced a
number of collections of works, inspired both by Middle Eastern, Asian
and Western musical traditions. I wanted to juxtapose selections from
the Middle Eastern and the Western music, in order to better appreciate
their differences and their similarities.
The Rubin Museum concert broke new ground, both in the programming – juxtaposing Dervish music with Western Hymns – and also in the way it was presented, integrating new technology in order to approximate the effects I was looking for.
The challenge of this program comes from my desire to recapture the Middle Eastern origins of the Music for Dervishes through the use of traditional scales - Bayaty, Esfahan, Hijaz, etc. The harmonious feeling of perfect fifths, and the bending pitches of seemingly improvised scales produce a much deeper emotional effect in these tunings. In preparation for this recording, I consulted with experts on Middle Eastern music and on micro-tuning the piano, producing a number of different scales for different pieces. In all, 5 separate tunings are used in 5 different keys.
The overall effect I'm looking for is a large-scale breathing. The unusual tunings of the Middle East alternating with the even-tempered Western scale creates an intensifying inhale, followed by a relaxing exhale, over and over. In my live performance, I was able to approximate this effect through the use of electronic keyboards to execute the different tunings in real time. The only other way to perform this music would be to have 8 different pianos on stage, each one tuned differently!
However, it is only through a recording that the depth and uniqueness of the program can be fully realized. I’ve imagined each piece with a specific tuning, and consulted with experts in micro-tunings and traditional Middle Eastern music to create these scales that bring out hypnotic, haunting qualities in the music. During the recording session, the piano’s tuning will be constantly adjusted in order to bring out these elements, then the music seamlessly integrated together in the editing process.
I've used the magic of the studio before - to present Chopin's Rondeau
in C in the 2-piano version with me playing both parts, as well as to
produce pedaling effects in Ravel that could not be reproduced in
concert. I'm very excited to be pushing that envelope again with this
repertoire that deserves a wider audience.
To supplement this excursion into new territory, I have decided to support the recording (Hymns and Dervishes) using Kickstarter, allowing friends and fans to become part of the project and “vote” with their donations. In exchange, I provide opportunities for you to be an integral part of the process and get exclusive access that matches your donation: access to the recording process and on-line interviews, signed CD’s, even private and/or in-home concerts!
Through Kickstarter, a project can be funded by small donations from many people, giving artists the freedom to explore a wider territory with built-in support. Each project sets a budget and a fundraising deadline; the project gets a green light ONLY if the budget and deadline are met. Your pledge is not debited unless/until the project meets those goals.
It’s really important for you to jump in with your support before the deadline of January 30. And if you can think of 5 people who might be interested in some aspect of this recording, please forward this link to them.
Check out the more detailed information about the program, as well as the reward ladder for your contributions.
I send you my very best wishes for a great new year, full of health, peace and creativity!
- (50 days)