Gurdjieff International Review

The Languages of Music & Movements

Excerpts on Aspects of the Oral Tradition

The Movements are part, only a part, of the teaching about the possible transformation of energies in us and the sense of human life. They express the teaching in a language where each gesture, each attitude, each sequence has a specific role and meaning. We cannot understand the Movements apart from the teaching, and we cannot rightly practice them with our automatic thinking and feeling. They call for the participation of my whole Presence. I must open to an energy that could have its own life in me. Then it is the body of energy, the Presence, that is in movement. Unless this Presence is here, the Movements are done automatically...

What is required to bring a Movement to others? First, we ourselves need to have done the Movement and we need to know both its structure—the succession of attitudes—and its rhythm, its life. Then we demand, of ourselves and others, correct attitudes and a clear vision of their succession. The positions must be exact. Without precision our work is superficial. Finally, we have to see in ourselves what the attitudes correspond to and find the right tempo to make the Movement alive... Each time, before beginning a class, we must take a moment for ourselves to remember what we wish to serve, in what we place our trust.

Jeanne de Salzmann, The Reality of Being, pp. 124–125

The Movement was a fantastic strain on memory and attention. It was so arranged that no one could copy from anyone else—each was an individual effort, though part of a whole. I’m beginning to understand the power of the Movements as taught by Mr. Gurdjieff. If you see what can be done and sense what is the necessary sort of effort, for some reason you feel you must love those people who can make themselves do this sort of thing. When we saw them struggling with this wicked invention of Mr. Gurdjieff’s, it was in no way criticism of their efforts that was invoked, but only love and sympathy. There was one young girl who in the end won over all the difficulties and did them as if in an animated trance and Mr. Gurdjieff’s “Bravo, Sophy,” was heartily felt by all of us.

Rina Hands, Madame Egout pour Sweet, p. 59

No matter how late, each night in the salon after dinner Gurdjieff took his little accordion-piano on his knee and, while his left hand worked the bellows, his right hand made music in minor chords and haunting single notes.

But one night in his aromatic store-room he played for five of us, alone, a different kind of music, although whether the difference lay in its sorrowful harmonies or in the way he played I do not know. I only know that no music had ever been so sad. Before it ended I put my head on the table and wept.

‘What has happened to me?’ I said. ‘When I came into this room I was happy. And then that music—and now I am happy again.’

‘I play objective music to make cry,’ Gurdjieff said. ‘There are many kinds such music—some to make laugh, or to love or to hate. This the beginning of music—sacred music, two, three thousand years old. Your church music comes from such but they don’t realize. They have forgotten. This is temple music—very ancient.’

Once when he played I thought the music sounded like a prayer—it seemed to supplicate. And then I thought, ‘It is only my imagination and my emotion,’ and I tried not to feel what I was feeling. But when he had finished, instead of smiling and tapping the top of the instrument with his hand, he sat quite still and his eyes stood motionless, as if he were looking at us through his thoughts. Then he said, ‘It is a prayer,’ and left us.

Dorothy Caruso, “Apartment in Paris,” in
Margaret Anderson, The Unknowable Gurdjieff, pp. 183–184

“Objective music is all based on ‘inner octaves.’ And it can obtain not only definite psychological results but definite physical results. There can be such music as would freeze water. There can be such music as would kill a man instantaneously. The Biblical legend of the destruction of the walls of Jericho by music is precisely a legend of objective music. Plain music, no matter of what kind, will not destroy walls, but objective music indeed can do so. And not only can it destroy but it can also build up. In the legend of Orpheus there are hints of objective music, for Orpheus used to impart knowledge by music. Snake charmers’ music in the East is an approach to objective music, of course very primitive. Very often it is simply one note which is long drawn out, rising and falling only very little; but in this single note ‘inner octaves’ are going on all the time and melodies of ‘inner octaves’ which are inaudible to the ears but felt by the emotional center. And the snake hears this music or, more strictly speaking, he feels it, and he obeys it. The same music, only a little more complicated, and men would obey it.

So you see that art is not merely a language but something much bigger. And if you connect what I have just said with what I said earlier about the different levels of men’s being, you will understand what is said about art. Mechanical humanity consists of men number one, number two, and number three and they, of course, can have subjective art only. Objective art requires at least flashes of objective consciousness; in order to understand these flashes properly and to make proper use of them a great inner unity is necessary and a great control of oneself.”

P.D. Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous, p. 297–298

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Copyright © 2012 Gurdjieff Electronic Publishing
Featured: Spring 2012 Issue, Vol. XI (1)
Revision: April 1, 2012