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Sicroff, Elan
Elan Sicroff interviewed by Reijo Oksanen

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Sicroff, Elan
Elan Sicroff

Elan Sicroff trained as a classical pianist at the Juilliard School and the Oberlin Conservatory. From 1973-5 he attended the International Academy for Continuous Education in Sherborne, Gloucestershire, England, as a student and later as music director. The program was run by J. G. Bennett, a leading exponent of Gurdjieffís teaching. Mr. Bennett introduced Elan to Mme. De Hartmann, wife of the composer. From 1975 until 1979 Elan studied with her and performed de Hartmannís works. In 1982 he made a tour of the U.S., including performances in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Boston. Since then he has given numerous recitals of this music at concert halls and Universities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Elan Sicroff's Homepage: sicroff.com

 

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Elan Sicroff interviewed by Reijo Oksanen


Concerts
Saturday January 24, 2010
The Sacred music and dances of G.I. Gurdjieff
Teatro Era Pontedera, 17:00
Parco Grotowski, Via Indipendenza. Pontedera (PISA), ITALIA
http://www.pontederateatro.it


Saturday January 30, 2010
St. John's, 7:30 pm
St. John's, Smith Square, Westminster, London, England
http://www.sjss.org.uk


Elan Sicroff will be on staff at the Camp Caravan - Millers River Educational Cooperative also in the course of the Six Week Intensive starting June 20th 2010. Among other activities Elan will be teaching music classes, playing for the Movements and giving piano instruction.


I had the pleasure of listening to Elan Sicroffís concert in Freiburg, Germany and the following day a chance to speak with him about his work on music and on his inner work generally. Here is a little sample of Elan playing Gurdjieff - de Hartmann from 2007:



Reijo: My first question is about what made you interested in the Gurdjieff work as I suspect it was the main reason why you came to Bennett. How did that happen?

Elan: There was a project that we took on in Sherborne at one point. It was to find out the means by which people found out about it. There are many interesting stories.

The quick response to your question is that I had no idea what Sherborne was when I went there, and I had no intention at all of staying there. I had come across Asia from New Zealand in 1972 where I had been studying for one year. I saw all kinds of things on this trip. The Bangladesh war was still going on. A million people were starving to death in the streets of Calcutta. I went to Nepal where I saw a huge Mandala in the Golden Temple, and I saw that it meant something deep.

By the time I got back to the States five months later I could not stay there. I could not finish university. I had seen too much to go back to ordinary life. So I took off with a friend with the intention of going to Afghanistan and riding through the center of the country on horseback.

Reijo: A very nice romantic dream.

Elan: Yes. I left the States with a bicycle, an airline ticket and $125. That was it. We were going to hitchhike to Istanbul and then go by train, but we only got as far as Athens before the dream got completely squashed. My friend went to India to study sitar. Then everything started to happen very quickly. I hitchhiked back to Cologne, where I came upon a hippie commune of German social misfits. They were into all sorts of spiritual paths, from Yogananda to Khrishnamurti, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, etc. This was 1972. They let me stay until I got on my feet and got a job in Germany.

While I was there I met a woman and fell in love with her. She was going to Sherborne but I had no idea what kind of place it was. She left in October, and I was going to visit her at Christmas. Shortly before I left to see her she sent me two letters which arrived on the same day. The first explained that it was all too complicated, her family would be there, she could not deal with them and a relationship at the same time, that I should not come.

The next letter had a story which she related to me. She was in a Movements class and the pianist was having difficulty. The teacher finally asked in desparation: ďDoesnít anyone know of a pianist?Ē Irmgaard answered that she did, but that he lived in Germany. Anna Durco replied, ďWhat use is that?!Ē But then she began to pester Irmgaard to have me come to Sherborne. So in this second letter, Irmgaard wrote: ďNow I know you must come here and meet Mr. Bennett.Ē

So I did. I came to Sherborne. I still remember my first meeting with Mr. Bennett, a very big man leaning over me and looking at me with penetrating eyes. We exchanged one or two words.

Then later in the week, Irmgaard advised me to go to speak to Mr. Bennett. She nearly had to push me to the door of his flat.

He asked me what I did. I said ďWell, I play the piano.Ē He asked: ďBut do you have any talent?Ē And I said: ďI donít answer that kind of question.Ē He said: ďIf you have a talent it is a gift. A gift does not belong only to you, you have an obligation to share it with other peopleĒ. I had never thought about it like that. Then, after listening to me play, he said: ďYou can come on the course if you want to.Ē I had no idea what was taught on this course, none at all.

After that he went away on holiday for a few days. I could not make up my mind about the course. I decided that since I could not say ďYesĒ that I would leave. On December 30th I went to dinner, about to leave Sherborne. There was Mr. Bennett. I saw him and started running out of the room! He came running after me. We then had a long conversation during which I made the choice to come to Sherborne House. That is how I arrived. Even at that point I had little idea of what it was all about.

Reijo: Thank you for telling me. My next question is did you then consider other branches of the Gurdjieff work when you got to know, or was it that you got so much from the connection with music and Bennett and the others at Sherborne that you werenít really looking for anything else?

Elan: Actuallly, it wasnít other Gurdjieff connections that interested me. It was other paths. I was very taken by Yogananda. I must have read his book, An Autobiography of a Yogi, about 5 timesóthat was really fascinating for me. I was also attracted to Buddhism, having kept the Diamond Sutra close to me for months. And there were other people trying to get me into other paths, Guru Maharaji for example. But I didnít even know that there was a Gurdjieff Foundation, an Ouspensky Society (The Study Society). I just didnít know anything.

Reijo: That is how we are when we come to the Work, a clean sheet in a way, we donít know anything, and we only hear rumours and we donít verify them; we donít know anything.

Elan: We still donít know anything [laughs].

Reijo: Youíve had a long time in the work. What is your question today? Thatís a big question I know, you can have many questions, questions on different levels. But you understand the gist of what Iím trying to ask you? Without a question weíre not getting anywhere, so whatís the basic sort of, what you need, what you want, what is the purpose ofÖyour work?

Elan: We touched on this last night. Youíre asking personally? I would say that there are two things. The first is that for my own personal inner work, that itís taken a surprisingly long amount of time to clear the decks so there can be some kind of inner stability. When I look back , I can see that there were obstacles to progress, habits which caused a leakage of energy. Those obstacles were there on Day One.

When those energy leaks have begun to be closed then you begin to look for other thingsÖ how does Gurdjieff say it? The consequences of the properties of the Organ Kundabuffer. We look at reality upside down. We imagine ourselves to be the center of the Universe. How to get free from our own egoism? This is something that I am beginning to look at now.

Reijo: Where does the energy leak into? What comes to my mind is the problem as I experience it at least, that I donít have enough energy to, so to say, practice the work. All the time, Iím away somewhere. Whatís missing? Thatís my big question. Youíre saying itís where the energy leaks, have we then found out something about where it leaks?

Elan: We need to come into balance. We need to balance the functions, physical, emotional, thinking. We need to moderate talking, eating, sleeping, sexual activity, etc. This gives us the energy we need to observe ourselves, then to ďrememberĒ ourselves, and finally to be able to act, to allow a change in ourselves to take place.

We begin from a point of being out of balance. The consequences of the organ Kundabuffer make us to see reality upside down. We want to live for pleasure, we donít want to suffer.

Reijo: Or we want to sleep.

Elan: Which is another word for it. At Sherborne conditions were set up to wake us up. It was always cold in the house, and we were almost always hungry. There is a story about Muhammed A king was impressed by Muhammedís teaching, and as a gift he sent a physician to look after his disciples.. After a year he found that almost no one had gotten sick and the king asked Mohammed how this could be. Muhammed replied ďItís very simple. My disciples always leave the table three-quarters full.Ē This discipline creates health in the physical body, and it also improves our psychic state. It engages us in a struggle of Yes and No, which gives strength for inner work.

Of course, there are other practices which help us to wake up. By working with attention we are able to bring our centers into balance. For example, if I sense my body while I engage in outer tasks, I am able to work with more than one center at a time. Man is a three brained being. Almost always we start with one or another of these functions out of balance

Reijo: A big question, what is a three-brained being?

Elan: Do you have an answer?

Reijo: No. Thereís a very good article on the website. An interview with Adam Nott, which talks about this and he says it very clearly, actually. But Iím no expert on that having been in the work such a short time, just 40 years. So I havenít really learned that yet, but of course, one can have an idea from the Movements. The easiest approach for me, anyway, is that in the Movements, I can experience the three centers working as a unit and be in it and be happy about it, that they work. Thatís all. Just to see it. Itís an incredible feeling. Iím sure that you mentioned it yesterday in your own words.

Elan: Yes, it is interesting. How does this process actually work? Because what youíre saying, and Iíd have to agree, is that we work with these techniques (and they are multifarious), but we still find that we are asleep. Or we donít find that weíre awakeóletís put it that way.

Reijo: But isnít it a lack of energy? Exactly where you started, it still is that. And Iím so amazed every time that I find out. I know exactly what I should do but I havenít got the energy for it.

Elan: Iíd have to have an example that we could talk about.

Reijo: Well letís say that Iím trying to read something like Beelzebub, which is difficult in itself. And, all of a sudden, I find out that Iím not actually reading, Iím completing the sentences from somewhere else.

Elan: Itís on automatic.

Reijo: That, for me is a lack of energy also, because Iíd like to read but itís not working. A very simple thing in the end. Not complicated.

Elan: To me, what youíre talking about is not something you can approach directly. There are some tools one can use, but if I put myself into your position, when Iím reading Beelzebub, which has happened many times, and it goes on automatic: I might try reading it aloud to myself. Sometimes this helps, but not always..

Reijo: Itís almost like when you wake up with a jerk. Finding yourself out in completing a sentence, which doesnít exist in the book, which is truly amazing.

Elan: Here is another example about needing energy. Yesterday. I had to plya a concert , and I was in a pretty similar situation to what youíre describing. This music is extremely simple, thereís nothing flashy about the notes in the Gurdjieff music, so itís all a question of oneís state. Itís all a question of whether one can get oneself into the proper orientation in order to play this kind of music.

Reijo: Can I put another question here? What role does the unconscious play in playing it right? That it happens to you, you know, that itís not your conscious itself that is playing. Is that a question, is that an approach at all?

Elan: Iím trying to translate what youíre saying because I think our language is a little bit different here.. First of all, to prepare for a concert, I will eat very little on that day. Fasting, or even partial fasting opens the channel for higher emotions to pass through.

Reijo: Not only cooking, but also not eating.

Elan: Not only not eating, but also working with breath. In other words, when you limit the intake of the first being food, then itís possible to extract substances from the second being food, in a different kind of a way. There are various exercises for this..

Reijo: What about the third kind? What is it?

Elan: I would say that, in terms of this third kind, I also try to limit this contact with automatic impressions. I try to stay in my own atmosphere. I can see that the day is coming closer when I wonít need to do that anymore, but I am not there yet.. Where Iíll be able to keep myself from being sucked away by all the inputs that are coming from outside.

But then thereís this other thing: Iím trying to get to this other thing where you talk about the unconscious. Because the language I would use for this is somewhat similar, but it has a different slant to it. Thereís a triad here: the audience, the performer and the music. If my ordinary self is stuck, thinking about the audience, or even ďthinkingĒ about the music, there are very limited possibilities. There is a prayer which comes from the Sevenfold Work by JGBennett, which I use in this situation: ďMay I be empty.Ē Inasmuch as I can be empty of my ordinary Self, itís possible for something from another source to come through. Sometimes it happens very easily. When I was recording this last CD, we had a little live performance at the end of two days of work. I was in a terrible state beforehand I was in physical pain. I had been playing for ten hours, and nothing was coming through. Before the audience arrived I had less than 10 minutes to collect myself. And then the audience appeared and it wentóBANGólike that. I was completely rejuvenated, and some of the best cuts of the session came from the next 90 minutes of playing.

Reijo: You may have been extremely tired.

Elan: I was extremely tired and ready to give up. All the essential ingredients that you canít manufacture [LAUGHS] and then something started to come through. But to me, when youíre talking about the unconscious, I donít know if thatís the unconscious, or what? Itís not coming fromÖitís getting myself, my ordinary, automatic thing, out of the way. Thatís the thing. When Iím not able to get out of the way, sometimes I make that prayer. I get up and perform and it if I have connected with the meaning of the prayer, I do often allow something else to come through. Sometimes itís only partially out of the way, and then itís agony. I have a friend, Robert Fripp a well known guitarist. Robert speaks about this problem that musicians have, that we, you know, we get this taste, this energy, this higher energy, really coming through the music sometimes, but then, itís not something that we have a control over. When itís not coming through, we rely on our craft. Craft is something we have control of, it includes everything connected with technique, musicianship etc. Craft enables us to depend upon a good performance. Itís not great, but itís good. It is within the realm of acceptability.

Reijo: This thing about the unconscious is very simply, what I mean by that is that the work, the Gurdjieff work, is often said to be about developing our consciousness. Or something like that. That it is consciousness that needs to be developed. But our conscious mind, according to people like C. G. Jung, is only about 1 or 5%, or whatever percentage of our lives. And the rest of our life is unconscious. It happens in dreams, or it happens automatically, or what is automatic. I tend to think today, that my efforts towards consciousness are more automatic than anything that happens in the unconscious. In the end. That itís a mess anyway. That I do not know what is what. Thatís how I think about it. As you said, when you were starting with your concert yesterday, that the Gurdjieff work is very much about conscience, which is in our unconsciousness.

Elan: Thatís right, yes. Thatís interesting. George Bennett recently gave a talk on conscience at the Beelzebub Conference in Toronto. The question came up, ďWhat does it mean to live by conscience?Ē In his book In Search of the Miraculous, Ouspensky decribes it as a very big and possibly rare event, when one sees all the contradictions inside oneself at once.

Reijo: That sounds very hazy to me.

Elan: Well, itís a big experience. And Iíve had experiences where Iíve been exposed, and all of a sudden, Iíve SEEN. But is that what he means to live by conscience? Thatís impossible. I mean, itís impossible the way we are. because we donít have those experiences very often. So what would it mean to live by conscience in daily life?

Reijo: If I may give my little answer to that, it would be that there are flashes of conscience coming through, and if I can eat those, then thatís impressions as well, that is third being food. I call them actually flashes, Iíve written some articles about that too, because to me, theyíve been very important. Because when you wake up in the morning and you suddenly have an idea, you donít really know what it is and how to express it. Try to catch it then you lose it completely, and you canít come back to it. But youíve seen something. But itís never become really conscious in you. I think thatís, sort of, conscience knocking to get through, in a way.

Elan: Let me give you an example. Letís say I go out to have a meal with somebody, and we pay for the meal. Something in me sees: ĎI could take this opportunity to give the tip í I can say Ďyesí, or I can say Ďnoí to this. If I say Ďnoí, this voice doesnít fight, it just gets buried again.. If I say Ďyesí To me, thatís a little taste of what living by conscience is about. In Beelzebubís Tales, Gurdjieff rarely speaks plainly. He generally Ąburies the dog deeperď. But in the Ashieta Shiemash chapters which deal with conscience, Gurdjieff is very direct. It is likely that he wanted us to make no mistake on the subject of conscience.

It might seem that this all sounds trivial. How could such a small action have the power to change our lives? It seems to me however, that it is precisely the small every day events that occur to us that have the potential to effect our transformation.

At this point this teaching about the 3 lines of work becomes important. This Work is not only for me, it is also about serving others, and also about serving a greater Purpose. Conscience is the inner guide, our own teacher located within ourselves.

Reijo: Have you studied it from the point of Christianity?

Elan: Studied what?

Reijo: Conscience is one part of Christian teaching. Iím not saying that Gurdjieff uses it in the same sense, all that it needs to be verified. Conscience is very much a Christian concept in origin, in my knowledge. Iím not sure if Iím right, of course.

Elan: Where do you find it?

Reijo: Itís a general tone in the whole of Christianity.

Elan: Well, it must be there in any real teaching, because itís one of the components, isnít it? Itís got to be.

Reijo: Itís much more about conscience, in the end, than consciousness, what the work is all about. In the sense that Iíve understood those words before.

ES: I donít know if youíve read ĎEnergiesí by J. G. Bennett. His descriptions make it very clear, at least to me. Words like ďconsciousĒ may mean very different things to different people. One of the most interesting aspects of Gurdjieffís teachingóif not THE most interestingóis that it is practical. There are tools which enable us to work. It is likely that much has been lost in terms of practice in the great world religions, and that Gurdjieff uncovered or rediscovered a large body of useful tools. Of course, there are practices which are still of great practical value, the Call to Prayer in Islam and the transmission through the Eucharist in the Christian liturgy come to mind..

Reijo: Yes itís incredible the whole symbolism of that, and Bennett discovered that.

Elan: Yes,at the end of his life he became a Catholic. This was probably influenced by his contact with a Benedictine monastery in France, and experiences he had during Communion.

Now to get back to this question of consciousness. According to the 12 energies outlined in his book by the same name, the conscious energy is a cosmic energy. It is bigger than we are. When we experience it there is a feeling of expansion, that there is no longer any inside or outside. We are connected to everything around us. We can participate in conscious energy but we cannot own it the way we can own our sensitivity (the next lower energy). I can say ďI will sense my right footĒ and with a little practice I will be able to have that experience.

But I cannot make myself become conscious. Conscious energy is not under our control. It enters us unbidden many times a day. When we notice something a small amount of conscious energy has entered into us, making us aware of ourselves. At other times itís more oblique,we set up conditions, and conscious energy may enter.. There was recently a Work seminar at Stackpole, in Wales. After a week of work there was a taste of conscious energy in that group. On the last day we sat together silently before leaving and there wasÖitís impossible to really describe in words what had happened, but we were in a medium in which we were all connected, that we all shared..

Reijo: There are exercises these days I have taken part in where you get together in a small group, we have a little group in Switzerland called Sisters and Brothers, people from different ways, Sufis and atheists and Buddhists, and last time we got together we were just trying to do that, you know, create an energy field, so to say. It can be done if we can be silent. It can arise in the group. Itís been practiced today like this also. Iím not really keen on doing anything like that, but anyway, I took part in it. Yes, I can understand what you mean by that.

What about the work with Olga de Hartmann? How would you define it in a short way?

Elan: Did you meet Madame de Hartmann?

Reijo: No.

Elan: Following on what we just said I think that I can say two things briefly about the Madame de Hartmann. Madame de Hartman was 91 when I met her. She lived till 95 and she had been working on herself for a long, long time by the time I met her. I would say there was a transmission through her as a result of her inner work which was probably the most important part of our interaction.

She had presence, and through it one got a taste of a differenent level of being. I have a photograph of her which I wish you would be able to see. You can get a sense of her presence from it.

Reijo: We have a friend who has been in the work for a long time; she is now 94 and weighs 34 kilos. She is in a hospital with cancer and looks incredible today. It can be seen when a person isÖ

Elan: She was like a pillar. She had this force. Madame de Hartmann was determined to get her husband's work known. He was everything for her - he and Mr. Gurdjieff. When Thomas died in 1956, she went into mourning for a few years. Then she became aware of the task she had to accomplish. She took it upon herself to find people who would get her husbandís music known. I came out to work with her in Montreal in 1975, where she had a performance of the Gurdjieff/de Hartmann music as well as Hartmannís personal compositions.. That was when I first met Laurence Rosenthal, and came into contact with the Gurdjieff Foundation for the first time.

Madame de Hartmann was very close to the Gurdjieff Foundation. She also had a long standing contact with JGBennett. According to her own words, Mr. Bennett always asked her opinion of the many teachers he came in contact with after Gurdjieffís death. She did not always approve! But she said she respected Mr. Bennett for the care that he gave his second wife when she was dying. And she was also willing to work with me on Mr. Bennettís recommendation.

The second thing I wanted to say is that her greatest interest in the interpretation and performance of her husbandís music was that feeling should be transmitted through it. She was unimpressed by fingers running up and down the keyboard, and she would sometimes say things that would irritate me. She would say that none of the pianists on the world stage really played with feeling. This was very hard for me to accept, and it took many years for it to really become clear to me, just what she was talking about.

Reijo: But wouldnít that exactly say also why the transmission of the teaching is from man to man or woman to man, man to woman, or woman to woman the way she taught you by her presence?

Elan: Thatís right. You know, it is funny you should say that because I was trying to think to myself what actually did Madame teach me. And I just couldnít come up with it. Every once in a while, she would say, slow down to here or more louder over here. But any music teacher teaches that kind of thing. She wanted this higher emotional energy to come through because she had had a taste of that when her husband played, and when Gurdjieff played the harmonium she knew that there was some magic that music possessed.

Reijo: Also, Elan, at the same time, misleading, isnít it, to call it emotional energy because we associate it with something that is happening in us all the time. But she was talking about something higher.

Elan: That's right. Yes. Higher emotional energy. Again that's a word to describe something.which cannot be described in our ordinary language.

Reijo: What is it, then if you want to define it now?

Elan: Si 12, Hydrogen 12. Is that really going to help?! But however you could say it, I'm pretty sure that everybody has a taste of this energy at some point in oneís life.

But anyway, I mean, that's what she was looking for. She was looking for something out of the ordinary. She knew that Thomas' music could be a vehicle for that.

Reijo: How then is the relationship between Gurdjieff music and the objective art?

Elan: Now we are coming to an interesting subject.

Reijo: Well, we're only starting now.

Elan: Well, we could have met at 7 AM.

Reijo: I was ready.

Elan: Were you?

Reijo: Yeah.

Elan: Well, you should have told me.

Reijo: My phone didnít work and I didnít have the number. All kinds of reasons, stupid reasons.

Elan: This is interesting. You read about Objective Music in Gurdjieffís writings. In the Bokharian Dervish chapter of Beelzebubís Tales, he sets a very high standard: making flowers grow quickly, raising a boil on the dervishís legÖ He sets an even higher standard when he talks about Choon-Kil-Tez and Choon-Tro-Pel, the two Chinese brothers, and how they discovered the law of the sevenfoldness, how they made this instrument, Alla-attapan, and all this stuff. Now, how are we going to make sense of all this? Is there something practical that we can all make use of?

Earlier this year I was about to give a talk on this at the Beelzebub Conference in Toronto. But there was no time because someone else gave a performance.

Reijo: Oh, yeah. You were interested in doing that.

Elan: I was going to do that and I was looking at it. The thing that is interesting in the chapter about the Bokharian dervish, is how he actually did raise up a boil on somebody's leg and how he did make flowers grow He struck one note, and then he struck another note, and he struck one note and he struck another note, the same two notes over and over. This points to something simples: the intrinsic nature of intervals. Between the intervals, there is a vibration. And so, all this fancy stuff you can push to the side for now, and get to work where it is possible to start, with the study of intervals.

Now, if you study the Law of Sevenfoldness you can understand theoretically what the characteristics of these intervals are. I have found huge benefit readings JGBís Enneagram Studies, particularly the chapter on The Kitchen at Work. The process of preparing a meal has a lot to say about the objective qualities of the different degrees of the scale.

For example, we know that the Si-Do interval is the interval of completion in any process. We have a taste of what that interval feels like. Last night when I played a concert, thatís Si-Do. I have done all this practicing, all this preparation, but there is always risk in that interval. Success is never guraranteed. Itís an unstable place, it is headed for completion. Compared to many other parts of the process, it happens very quickly. Then, you take that interval, Do to Si, and you play that on a piano or you have two people singing it, and you get a taste of what that feels like, in sound. Some very unstable sound intervals. Unless you have two professionals singing, it is almost impossible to hold this interval: it moves to the octave.

So, this is one place to start, we have this tool that Gurdjieff gave us about the law of sevenfoldness. And there is enough information that people have uncovered that we can expand on this. For example, the Harnel-Aoot, the fifth stopinder, which is disharmonized, what does that sound like? And you look at Harnel-Aoot in music, you know, Do to sol flat, thatís the Devils interval. It was illegal to use the tritone in the early church days. It sounds like you are on the horns of a dilemna, it is an uncomfortable place, very dissonant. that you canít figure out. This is one way one way you can approach the subject ofobjective music without wiseacring. That is what the title of my talk was going to be.

Reijo: Very physical in the end.

Elan: Yes, very practical. Is it possible to talk about objective music without wiseacring? Well, because wiseacring is fun but what use is it? Now, the second thing to look at in terms of objective music is ourselves as receivers of vibration. There is this assertion: God is great, God is everywhere. But as I am, can I perceive God? No.

Reijo: We have, in the author of mysticism, this beautiful saying that God is always present but I am not.

Elan: So, there you are. Whatís objective in music may always be there but if we are not present to it, then whatís the use?

Now letís go back to our conversation about Madame de Hartmann where she was saying, ďYou play the notes, you just play the notes, you don't have a connection, nothing comes through.Ē There are two parts.
The instrument is not just the piano. There is another part of the instrument, myself, and myself has to be tuned. Thus, we come all the way around, back to work on myself, in order to hear what is objective in sound. I work at sensing my body, I open my feelings, I discipline my thoughts. From the Prayer of the Heart to struggle with habits, to working with Movements, Gurdjieffís teaching offers almost innumerable techniques for inner work. For performance it is the same. When my Self becomes in tune, then I become part of a double instrument, and the possibility arises for something higher to come through .

Reijo: I have a question about the way Gurdjieff talks about the objective art. He makes a very big point about these lawful inexactitudes.

Elan: May we get to that in a moment? Before we get to the lawful inexactitudes, letís look at this preparatory level, setting the groundwork. To me, the essential thing which has got to be opened is our feeling center so that it becomes a true receptor for higher energies.

Reijo: Instead of a reactor.

Elan: Instead of a reactor, instead of going on a lower fuel, which Ouspensky calls Hydrogen 48. Very scientific and dry. But perhaps accurately. So, we have to open our instrument. We have to open the feelings because if we donít, there is nothing in us which can perceive in depth.. The thinking is analytical, comparing, criticizing. Very important, but no depth.

Reijo: There is an author called Porphyrion who said something like, to be able to a Christian, you have first to become a poet. And he talks about the same thing in different words.



Elan: Once again, we come up against our limitations in language. We are trying to describe something for which there are no words. One way is through metaphor. Somethimes our different spiritual paths hide the fact that we are all the same human beings underneath.

Reijo: I have this theory that Buddhism is actually very popular today because they donít have God; it is much easier not to ask what is God. Join Buddhism and youíll be going to consciousness or whatever you call it in a very much easier starting point and it is very much the same as Gurdjieff work. That is another subject that would be interesting to talk with you about. What is the relationship of Gurdjieff work to religion generally and maybe, you know, I am touching this only as a point, and we can continue maybe.

Elan: Yes, but first we need to get to this subject of the lawful inexactitudes. Let us first set up this groundwork: We need to open up the feelings in order to have a chance to really understand something about objective art. And what is objective? It is what we call the Higher Emotional center, which includes these feelings of Wish, Hope, Faith, Acceptance, Love. These are the same for all of us. In Arabic they are called latifas, meaning subtle . They have specific locations in the breast, which we can come into contact with, not by force, but by being receptive. When we have a taste of these higher emotions, they are the same in me as in you, as in Thomas, as in Petra. Whereas our ordinary emotions, Hydrogen 48, are different for different people: I like beer and Petra likes wine, and Thomas likes cognacÖ This kind of emotion, which is really attraction and repulsion, this is different, this is subjective. But with the Higher Emotions, when we open to them, then we have a touchstone for objective art because objective art, which is something that touches everyone in the same way.

And so, now, these lawful inexactitudes - there are two parts to that. First there is noticing where Gurdjieff puts in these lawful inexactitudes. And then, there is coming to some interpretation or some understanding, or some perception of whatís happening there. And I have to say, I have seen a large number of places where there are inexactitudes in the music, but I canít honestly say that I have uncovered the secrets that he says are locked up in them.

Reijo: You talked yesterday a little bit about it.

Elan: Yes, we talked about that. For example, in one of the pieces that I played last night, it is the piece for Mr. Gurdjieffís wife {Elan hums a tune at this point}, the rhythm is in two. But in two places in the piece he changes the rhythm to three. It does not fit the pattern, but it is essential to the feeling of the piece. It sort of slips your feeling into a slightly deeper place. You are going along, then you slide, then you regain your balance in the original pattern.

Reijo: Thatís what I was trying to say in my way, in comparing it to Chi-Gong; the movements to Chi-Gong, not the music. The Chi-Gong movements are continuous. But in the Gurdjieff movements the movements are abruptly changing. And for me, that actually means that the lawful inexactitude is disturbing us.

Elan: It is giving us a chance

Reijo: It is giving us a chance and if we canít be there then, then we lost it.

Elan: Now, there is another really interesting thing that you reminded me of, in Bartok, and again you see these things in very simple pieces much more easily. Bartok wrote 150 Mikrocosmos. They start as simple training exercises, but they get very complicated, suitable for the concert stage.

Well, there are 2 beginning exercises which are very interesting. One is called Parallel motion, the other Reflexion. In Relexion, the right hand plays up when the left goes down, and vice versa. It makes for a very dissonant piece! Each of these pieces has a lawful inexactitude.. Parallel Motion ends in contrary motion, and Relexion incorporates parallet motion at the end. It turns out that neither piece can complete itself without this inexactitude. They would only end ďup in the air.Ē.

I have always found it interesting, by the way, that Bartok in his own way, was doing what Gurdjieff did. He went to the East, to North Africa, he went to Hungary and to Romania, and to Bulgaria, and he found all these ancient sources of music and then he recorded something like 10,000 of these on his little Edison phonograph. He transcribed many of them and the music got into his blood stream. His composition became a synthesis of Eastern and Western music.

Reijo: I had no idea about that part of his life. I know only that he was Hungarian.

Elan: He was an interesting guy. When I first found Bartokís music, I was 14. My teacher gave me the 3 Rondos on Folk Tunes, from Hungary.I was at the Juilliard Preparatory School, and I needed something modern for the final exam of my first year there.

I played it through once and I didnít understand it. The second time, I was addicted.. For years, I was playing only Bartok. Anyway, going back to the subject of lawful inexactitudes, you can find them. When you spoke of the Movements changing abruptly, I think there is a clue here. They take you out of your flow. This is probably a good place to begin understanding them. .

Reijo: And the big thing is that you can then somehow be brought back into the flow even though you are brought out of it, in this way, and that is the beauty of the movements for me, anyway.

Elan: And that brings up another response to what you were asking before. I just want to put this on your recorder. I donít know if we are going to use this. But there is a very interesting thing about waking up that Mr. Bennett once said. We had a staff meeting at the beginning of the Third Basic Course, or it may have been the Fourth Basic Course. he said, ĄWe think that we practice self observation in order to remember ourselves. . But the real purpose of self observation is to see that you cannot remember yourself. It is not to remember yourself. It is to see that you cannot remember yourself.Ē

Reijo: Thatís good. I thank Mr. Bennett for that. Thatís beautiful.

Elan: Then he added, ďNow I donít remember myself all of the time.Ē and this was a person who had spent 50 years in the Work, and who had come a long, long way.. And finally he said, ďBut when I need to, I can.

I want to add something to that because, in my experience what really happens with self-remembering is not that I remember myself, but that I am remembered by something higher. In other words, something higher comes in, and wakes me up, and this is connected with something as simple as noticing. So, every time, I notice, I have a spark of consciousness. When I notice that ďOops! I am going to be late,Ē This is self-awareness.

Reijo: Thatís very nice. Thank you very much. Itís been very, very interesting to listen to you talk. Really, we have got to keep up the contact.




Comments

attentive audiences
In a way, I wish more people could know Sicroff's progress in the way that I do, having been a student alongside him with J.G. Bennett back in 1972-73, and having heard some of Elan's concerts and earliest recordings in the mid-70's. One of the important things about him is that while his technical abilities were already pretty well developed over 30 years ago, he has found other means and ways of continuing to develop that are equally - or even more - important.

In interviews, Sicroff makes note of how Gurdjieff and Hartmann used to collaborate on their composing in front of a live group of ATTENTIVE people. It should also be noted that Elan himelf, in his performances, has often had audiences of unusually present, attentive people. This is something which can be cultivated and even "rehearsed". Back in the 70's, again, one of John Bennett's senior students, Anthony Hodgson, also a pianist, developed ideas and techniques of audience training in attentiveness to a very high level. Influenced by both Sicroff and Hodgson, after Bennett, I am very grateful now for all my fans and audiences who have joined me in further developing experiments in this way of participation. Some have been "attending" - in more ways than one - my concert-experiments for 10, 15, 20 or more years. It makes a real difference. This esoteric collaborative work transcends any artist; indeed, it transcends the whole myth of the artist-genius, to the enrichment of us all.



David Salminen, United States
david@wholeworks.net
added 2010-02-09


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