A compelling and highly attractive project which returns the music of philosopher, spiritual leader, author and composer Georges I. Gurdjieff (circa 1866-1949) to its ethnic inspirational sources. It's performed by some of the leading players in Armenia - the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble founded by Levon Eskenian in 2008. This is an album not only for Gurdjieff enthusiasts, but for any listener with a broad interest in the origins of "world music" and for simple yet subtle melodies played with feeling.
To date Gurdjieff's compositions have largely been studied, in the West, via the piano transcriptions made in the 1920s of Russian composer-pianist Thomas de Hartmann. Armenian composer Levon Eskenian now goes beyond the printed notes to look at the musical traditions that Gurdjieff encountered during his travels, and rearranges the compositions from that perspective. Eskenian draws attention to the roots of the pieces in folk and spiritual music. This revelatory recording gives a listener the experience of hearing Gurdjieff in full colour and in close-up, from the source rather than filtered through western classical interpretation - Gurdjieff with the instruments of the east.
Levon Eskenian is an Armenian musician born in Lebanon in 1978. He moved to Armenia in 2005 to study at the Komitas Conservatory. An encounter with ECM's Chants, Hymns and Dances - the 2003 album with new Gurdjieff arrangements by Anja Lechner and Vassilis Tsabropoulos - prompted him to think deeply about Gurdjieff's sources, as he recognized a number of the tunes as clearly related to folk songs or sacred songs of the region. Eskenian's liner notes trace each of the pieces to specific geographical points of origin and/or inspiration: Arab, Kurdish, Armenian, Georgian, Greek and so on.
ECM has had an ongoing relationship to Gurdjieff's music, starting with Keith Jarrett's influential Sacred Hymns of G.I. Gurdjieff disc in 1980. It's intoxicating to hear some of these meanwhile well-known themes played by a folk ensemble.
Personnel: The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble, Levon Eskenian (artistic director)