Sacred Sundays: Music of Gurdjieff

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

For this week's Sacred Sunday feature, host David Garland presents music composed by the early 20th Century mystic Gurdjieff for his "Sacred Gymnastics and Movements." Gurdjieff believed that dance could be used as a language to express cosmic knowledge, and he created music to accompany carefully choreographed ensemble movement. In the 1920s Gurdjieff's music was orchestrated for presentations in New York and Paris, and a recent, premier recording of those orchestrations is featured.

Comments [6]

Steven Fox

I've heard this music before and I have a difficult time with it. Every time I listen to it, it doesn't sound as if I'm hearing it for the first time anymore, it sounds old and mechanical. Today's renditions of these music pieces are so artificial. They lack the depth that old pupils of Gurdjieff's had its as if this music and everything connected with it has seen its last days and people are going on mechanically spinning in their own circle.

Nov. 20 2008 04:11 AM
Nicholas Downey from Brooklyn, NY

Hi David,
I wonder if I could ask you to be more precise regarding this wonderful Orchestral piece you played by Gurdjieff. You say it came from a 4 CD set, without telling us the title of that set. I know you go on to say that Basta has also put out....etc. Without specifying what particular recording you used. I'd love to know as I'd buy it at the drop of a hat, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it, and thank you so much for playing it.

My very best wishes,

Nov. 17 2008 02:33 PM
alfred jay from Morningside Heights

Sometime this past October,or late Sept.,you broadcast selections from an album of Jewish (Hebrew) prayer chants that was recorded in 1925. (It was part of your Sacred Sundays series.) If possible, could you repeat the title of the album, and tell me whether it has been reissued on a CD. Thank you.

Nov. 17 2008 12:37 AM
David Garland from WNYC studio

Noah, the orchestral versions of Gurdgieff's music were made at his request for his own presentations, so I suppose they can considered authentic. The same record company (Basta) that put out the four CD set I used tonight has also issued what must be the most authentic Gurdjieff recording: 19 HOURS (!) of Gurdjieff's own performances. That collection is called "Harmonic Development," and you can find info at

Nov. 16 2008 10:06 PM
Noah from Yonkers

To David Garland

A few mistakes on your commentary about G.I. Gurdjieff -
Gurdjieff was born in Georgia, probably in 1866, then a part of the Russian Empire. His mother was Armenian, his father Greek.
The most 'authentic' recordings are the piano recordings of Thomas de Hartmann.
He came to the west around 1920 and spent the latter part his life in Paris.

Nov. 16 2008 08:40 PM
Russell B. from Brooklyn, NY


Frida Hyvönen's last name is pronounced, approximately, "HEE veux neyn."

If you know the French pronunciation of "voeu," you'll get it. If not, the closest I can think of in English is the sound of "i" in "birthday" -- less the "b" before and the "r" after.

I'm guessing, never having heard her name pronounced by a native, at where the stress falls -- but I'm guessing on the first syllable.

Any other conundra where French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian or Swedish are concerned, I'd be happy to help out. Beyond these, you're on your own. I'd be out of my league.


Nov. 16 2008 08:29 PM

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