|Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble
The Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble was founded in 2008 by the Armenian musician Levon Eskenian with the aim of creating ethnographically authentic arrangements of the G.I. Gurdjieff/Thomas de Hartmann piano music. The ensemble consists of leading Eastern folk instrumentalists in Armenia playing duduk, blul/nay, saz, tar, kiamancha, oud, kanon, santur, dap/daf, tombak and dhol. Its repertoire mainly consists of G.I.Gurdjieff’s original compositions, as well as some works by ashoughs’ (troubadours), traditional and spiritual Armenian pieces chosen to further illustrate Gurdjieff’s musical influences. Organized by Naregatsi Art Institute, the ensemble had its first concerts in Gyumri, ArmeniaGurdjieff’s birthplace.
Gurdjieff is known to many in the West as one of the major spiritual figures of the 20th century. His extraordinary musical repertoire was based on the music he heard during his journeys in Armenia, the Caucasus, the Middle East and many parts of Central Asia, India and North Africa, where he witnessed a myriad of folk and spiritual music, rituals and dance traditions. This music consists of some 300 pieces and fragments for the piano, composed in the 1920’s in the manner of dictation from Gurdjieff to his pupil, Thomas de Hartmann, the Russian composer and pianist.
It is important to note that Eastern musical traditions are strongly characterized by their own unique instruments and instrumental combinations and these indigenous Eastern instruments are capable of producing microtonal intervals, rhythms and other nuances that are essential parts of Eastern music. Naturally, most of the instrumental music that Gurdjieff heard during his travels was performed on Eastern folk instruments. It is noteworthy to mention that he also amassed a collection of Eastern instruments (which resided at the Chateau du Prieuré at Fontainebleau) that he had intended to use for authentic performances of folk music and dances.
Through rigorous study of the instrumentation and performance practices of the musical traditions of each ethnic group, Levon Eskenian has chosen and arranged those pieces that have roots in Armenian, Greek, Arabic, Kurdish, Assyrian, and Caucasian folk and spiritual music for Eastern folk instruments. From an ethno-musicological perspective, these pieces are a valuable source of information on Eastern ritual, folk, and sacred music from an era before audio recordings.
We have learned from de Hartmann’s notes that Gurdjieff gave much importance to the perception of Eastern music and how it was played on authentic Eastern folk instruments. In 1919, Gurdjieff sent de Hartmann and his wife to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, where de Hartmann gave concerts of European music and of works by Armenian composer Komitas (The pillar of Armenian classical music,ethnomusicologist and decipherer of khazthe Armenian music notation system). As de Hartmann describes, “Mount Ararat was wrapped in a shroud of mistan unforgettable sight. To accompany this vision there was authentic Eastern music played on…the tar-a kind of stringed instrument. Through this trip to Erivan….Gurdjieff gave us the opportunity of listening to Eastern music and musicians, so that I could better understand how he wished his own music to be written and interpreted.
Artistic Director: Levon Eskenian
Duduk: Emmanuel Hovhannisyan
Blul: Avag Margaryan
Kamancha: Armen Ayvazyan
Oud: Aram Nikoghosyan
Kanon: Meri Vardanyan
Santur: Vladimir Papikyan
Tar/saz: Davit Avagyan
Dap/daf,dhol: Mesrop Khalatyan
Duduk in G: Norayr Gapoyan
Duduk in A: Narek Mnatsakanyan
LEVON ESKENIAN, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Levon Eskenian is an Armenian composer and pianist who was born in Lebanon in 1978. In 1996 he moved to Armenia where he currently lives. In 2005 he graduated from Yerevan Komitas State Conservatory with a Master’s degree in piano (class of professor Robert Shugarov). In 2007 he obtained his postgraduate degree from the class of Professor Willy Sargsyan. He has also studied composition, organ and improvisation classes at the Conservatory and harpsichord in Austria and Italy with the English organist and harpsichordist Christopher Stembridge.
Levon Eskenian is one of the most active figures in Armenia’s musical life.Being the artistic director of various ensembles,he has performed both as a soloist and chamber musician with a program ranging from early baroque to contemporary music in Europe, Middle East and in Armenia. His interests in folk music and G.I. Gurdjieff’s work have led him to study the music of the Middle East and the Caucasian region. He is the founder and artistic director of the Gurdjieff Folk Instruments Ensemble, through which he aimes to present his ethnographically authentic arrangements of Gurdjieff’s music, the recording of which is expected to be released in July 2011 by ECM Records.
Between 2005 -2010 Eskenian organised more than 500 concerts, lectures, master classes and classical music festivals in Armenia. He is a founder member of the Naregatsi Chamber Music Society with its chamber orchestra and small ensembles, which were created to promote rarely performed repertoire ranging from early to contemporary music.