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Inner Octaves and Eastern Music

By Jeffrey Werbock
A central idea in Gurdjieffs system of knowledge outlines one of the two fundamental laws governing every process in the universe. According to this idea, the universe is a singular wholeness that divides itself into seven degrees of density. These divisions are in turn divided into seven degrees of density, and so on. By the action of this law, the universe expresses the eternal relationship between its wholeness and its divisions, as well as the relationships between all the divisions. Gurdjieff explained that although this law operates in all phenomena, in our current condition we are unable to observe it in action. With some form of help, however, he assures us that it is possible. One form of help mentioned in numerous places in his writings and lectures is music. Thanks to Gurdjieff, we now know that by examining the structure of music we are exploring the structure of reality. This study has two aspects, both essential to understanding. One part is analytical, the other part is experiential. Our analysis can begin with the natural properties of sound. Sound is produced by a material vibrating at a definite frequency inducing waves of acoustical energy in a medium of transmission. The essence of sound, as in all other natural phenomena, is vibration. A vibration is a continuously and smoothly alternating pulse of energy. Vibrations are scaled by their frequencies (rates of vibration) and their amplitudes (strengths of vibration). When two vibrations of the same frequency vibrate in the same medium, they simply add to each other the strength of their combined signals. When they vibrate at different frequencies, however, their relationship becomes more complex. In music, when two vibrations of different frequencies interact, it is called an interval. Among all intervals, one stands out as unique. This interval is called the octave, and it is obtained by doubling or halving the rate of vibration. Because Mr. Gurdjieff placed such importance in his writings and lectures on the octave, we are called to take up the challenge to try to fathom its import. We can begin our inquiry by examining what the octave is in the realm of music. The octave interval serves as the frame for all musical scales everywhere. It can be divided into many smaller intervals to make many different scales. Usually, it is divided into seven intervals framed by eight tones; hence the word octave. There are a number of commonly used seven-tone scales that span the range of an octave. Mr. Gurdjieff chose one of them, known as the major scale, to describe the action of the law of seven.1 This division of the octave into seven intervals is based on the property of sound known as consonance. In music, consonance and dissonance refer to the human response to an interval. However, there is objective physics behind the subjective experience of hearing what happens when two tones interact. When most vibrations of differing frequencies

interact, some dissonance appears in the form of a third vibration. The octave, however, is totally consonant, as the interaction of the two tones that compose it produce no third vibration. The most consonant interval after the octave, known in music as the perfect fifth, produces a tiny amount of dissonance in the form of a third vibration, a third force. The next most consonant intervalknown as the dominant fourthproduces even more third force, and so on. The seventh in the series of intervals of diminishing consonance and increasing dissonance produces so much third force that it begins to be noticeable. This interval, known in music as the minor seventh, begins to exhibit audible dissonance. Continuing with this progression from total consonance toward increasing dissonance, the 12th interval in the series called the tritoneis so dissonant that at one point in the history of music, it was referred to by the Church as the devil in music. Most western music is composed using the seven-tone scales that are derived from the twelve most consonant (or least dissonant) intervals. Music of the east, however, often includes intervals that are even more dissonant than the tritone. Known in music as microtones, they correspond to the notes on inner octaves.2 Traditional eastern music is strictly monophonic, which means that it uses only melodies, and it can easily support the inclusion of intensely dissonant microtonal intervals. Western music is mostly polyphonic, which means it also uses chords. Generally, western polyphonic music avoids the inclusion of microtones because of the effect they would have on the harmony of the chords. Even without microtones there can be considerable dissonance among the 12 most consonant intervals, but if polyphonic music were to include intervals other than the 12 most consonant, it would be very hard to listen to. We can tolerate and even enjoy the energy issuing from a moment of intense dissonance that occurs in some eastern melodies, but the release of energy that would occur in western chordal music that included the strongly dissonant intervals of microtones would be a cacophony. According to Gurdjieff, certain melodies composed of microtones on inner octaves have the power to affect the inner states of humans and animals.3 Primed with this idea, we can survey the music throughout the world in which melodies can be found that include microtones. The playing of melodies that include microtones is actually fairly common around the world. Exotic, haunting melodies heard in every eastern culture and among native indigenous tribes everywhere express the great variety of ways for playing melodies that include microtones. In this way, each culture, each tradition, has its own unique

fingerprint or signature of microtones, framed by the tones of the outer octave scale. The power of music that includes microtones depends not only on playing the melody with the correct intonation, but also on the musicians intent. Played unintentionally, a microtone will just sound out of tune. Played intentionally, the same microtone will have an entirely different effect on the listener. The energy of microtones can reach the finer vibrations on the inner octaves of the listeners being, but only when the listener is convinced the musician is playing that microtone intentionally. Part of the experience is induced by the energy in the sound of the music, especially when played on the instruments designed for microtonal music, and part of the experience is brought on by the listener listening with his whole attention. To inspire that quality of listening, the musician must do something more than just perform well. The musician must be present and listen actively with the aim to intend each and every note. As with everything, intention is expressed in degrees. The first stage of intention is imitation. The musician plays a specific microtone because he has heard it all his life and for him there is nothing strange about it. The challenge is a technical one, a challenge that all musicians face if they are singing or playing on instruments that require high degrees of tonal accuracy, such as any fretless stringed instrument. The second stage is reached when there is a real wish to hear a specific microtone. The interest has evolved from merely wishing to play correctly, to wishing to experience the energy of the microtone. When the musician arrives at this stage of intention while playing in the presence of others who are actively listening, an impression of another level will be transmitted that resonates with the inner octave vibrations in the listeners. The third stage of intention begins when the musician wishes with his whole being. This stage goes beyond time and place. The relationship between the outer and inner octave tones then expresses something that transcends the local origins of the music. At that moment, the universe, in the form of a human being playing this special music, expresses the universality of the relationships between all vibrations. To help those who have become accustomed to the music prevalent in western cultures to be able to listen more deeply to traditional eastern melodies, perhaps some guidance can be offered. There are three areas of significant differences. The first is the intentional use of microtones embedded in monophonic melodies. The second difference is the principle that guides the composition of the melodies which serve as the framework for the playing of microtones. In most traditional eastern music, melodies are composed of sequences of tones that follow a pattern that resembles waves, going up and down the scale of frequencies. The sequence of tones may at times be orderly and simple, and at other times delicate and complex, weaving a filigree of fine detail. Simple or complex, it is this wave-like pattern that enables the energy of microtones to work their magic. Something of this original knowledge about the relationship between states and sound can still be found among the musical traditions of the Middle East, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and East Asia. These ancient musical traditions continue to carry this

knowledge forward in time, bringing to us the opportunity to feel the depth and intensity of music composed centuries ago when the knowledge of the power of tones and microtones shared the human stage with other great works of art, some of which endures to this day. The third difference is the playing of melodies without a time signature. This brings us to the other meaning of the word interval, which applies to the dimension of time. In general, time-intervals make it possible to more easily accept the intensity of strongly dissonant tone-intervals. When two tones of a strongly dissonant interval are played simultaneously, the sound may seem harsh and if sustained, difficult to listen to. When the same two dissonant tones are played sequentially, the harshness is neutralized. Time-intervals are needed between the tones of melodies that include microtones so we can be open to their energy and feel the finer vibrations reverberate on our inner octaves. When the music has no time signature, as in certain traditions of eastern music, the rhythm becomes highly elastic. Without a rigid time frame, the timing of the tones requires the same deliberateness, the same degree of intention required to play microtones effectively. Deliberately choosing the moment the microtone is played serves to increases the audiences feeling of certainty, an experience that can help to open one to receive the energy of the instrument and the energy of the music it carries. Gurdjieff wrote that he listened actively to microtonal music from a very early age. Throughout his lectures and writings Gurdjieff returned to the themes of music and vibrations. His regard for the importance of special music in connection with his ideas about inner work can still be appreciated today through his collaborative effort with Mr. Thomas de Hartmann. Even though it is not possible to play microtones on a piano, they found a way to overcome that, and thanks to their efforts, we now have a tradition of polyphonic music that is based on the knowledge of the inner workings of the octave, and the inner yearnings of humanity. Gurdjieff presented us with a system of knowledge informing us that all matter and energy vibrates. Modern science has corroborated that revelation. Everything is a composition of pulsating energies vibrating across the whole spectrum of frequencies. We ourselves are just such compositions made of finer and denser energies, and by actively listening to the microtones on inner octaves, we may experience a relationship with the finer levels of energies that are an integral part of our own being. Sensing the presence of another level of energy, we find that the higher is accessible through the inner. But how, exactly, can that be? As the frequencies of microtones are only slightly higher or lower than the outer octave tones that frame them, how is it possible that they can touch another level of energy in us? Gurdjieffs system describes how this use of inner octaves can bring to the listener the experience of an energy that is on an entirely different scale of vibrations from the ones we actually hear. Gurdjieff showed how the materialities of different levelscalled worldsstand in relation to each other: the materiality of world 48 is composed of inner octaves of the

materiality of world 24, the materiality of world 24 is composed of the inner octaves of the materiality of world 12, and so on.4 Melodies that include microtones have two levels that relate to each other in the same way as two adjacent levels in the universe: outer octave and inner octave. Music that includes microtones needs the outer octave notes that frame them, because our attention cannot listen actively to a melody composed exclusively of microtones played on one inner octave. Moreover, a microtone is only a microtone in relation to an outer octave tone. By itself it is just another tone, but when a microtone is played within the context of the outer octave tones of a seven tone scale, it has the power to reach our inner octaves. Inspired in part by the intentional playing of inner octave microtones framed by outer octave melodies, our active listening bridges the gap between the two levels in us and offers another way to become aware of the presence in us of a level of energy higher and finer than that which is accessible from our common everyday state. Perhaps our search for ways to understand Gurdjieffs ideas on vibrations, octaves, intervals and inner octaves could include the study of traditional forms of microtonal music, a study that is a full immersion in the experience of the musics power to evoke the sense of another level in life. Gurdjieff provided us with all the indications we need to conduct this research on our own, without telling us in advance what to expect from it. ~~
1 2

Peter Ouspensky, In Search of the Miraculous (1949), pp. 123132. Ibid, p. 136. 3 Ibid, p. 297. 4 Ibid, p. 136.

Examples of the laws of three and seven in the music of Gurdjieff / de Hartmann
by Wim van Dullemen Although music can never be reduced to rationality, even a superficial form-analysis of Gurdjieff's music cannot fall to show examples in which he represented these laws in a musical format. After some brief remarks about the music of Gurdjieff and De Hartmann, two examples will be played and discussed step-by-step: 'Hymn from a

great Temple nr.1' and 'Prayer and Despair'. Music is a world in itself. Each child, man and woman has his/her own experience, of irreplaceable value, in this God-given realm. Trying to improve your understanding of music however, demands discipline. In this discipline, we have first to define the context of a musical specimen and then we have to analyse it to the limit of where the intellectual insight can bring us. Having reached that frontier, we try to open ourselves completely to the possible emotional meaning and the reason, in real music always sacred, why this music exists. 'The intellectual approach is only a small part of the total exercise and should never have an aggressive impact. It should be like studying a flower, so carefully that it is not damaged.' [1] The interpretations of the two hymns of Gurdjieff and De Hartmann given here serve only as an example to encourage others to explore the music their own way. They indicate a possible way of being open to the music, that is all. No Interpretation whatsoever can replace music, they present only passing visions that continually have to be changed and renewed through new efforts in listening, analysing and playing. In trying to find examples of Gurdjieff's Laws of Three and Seven, the danger is of course that we are looking for something we have already found; the most unscientific approach possible! This is what the Germans call: 'hineininterpretieren'. It resembles the procedure of the poor devil who started calculating all night long until his calculations showed him that he actually was a rich man! I shall try to avoid that danger as much as possible by splitting up the observations in 'facts and fantasies'; that means basic textual analysis and subjective interpretation.

Hymn from a great Temple I This composition is 'antiphonal' in the extreme. That means it is in a pure callresponse format. This musical practice is widely used in classical music, but only in a disguised way. In its plain form it is practised only in folk and religious music, f.i. it is still alive in New Guinean and African musical traditions. The last influence can still be detected in spiritual and chain-gang work songs in the U.S.A. Another variety can be heard in Liturgical chanting; where the priest chants a short phrase - f.i. Kyrie Eleison - and the community answers with the same phrase, with a slight melodic modification. The reason for the extreme antiphonal character of this piece must be that we are dealing here with a representation on the keyboard of a Liturgy Ceremony. I have no doubts whatsoever - based on textual evidence, f.i. the length, limited range and absence of large intervals - that in this composition the 'calls' - 6 in total - were sung by a community. Neither do I have any doubts, although I cannot prove it, that this music was the result of an impressive effort by Gurdjieff to pass on all the sounds of a particular liturgy exactly as he remembered them; including non-musical sounds, like mumbling of prayers, sacred gestures and the sounding of heavy objects. [3] The 'response' part is highly characteristic of this hymn. It is a seven-note pattern in the low bass region that is repeated in the same form throughout the piece seven times. De Hartmann has emphasised that each note should be struck with force.

Therefore the response was not chanted. It could be a staccato low growl by one or a few elderly men, but more likely it is the sound of an unusual heavy and large stringed instrument. Further in 3 places notes in the lowest keyboard-region are hit, without any melodic or rhythmic function. These echo the liturgical sounding of three (!) different large objects; bells or massive gongs. To illustrate the musical pattern of this composition I refer to my graphic representation (illustration 1). I am indebted for this particular musical notationsystem to the inventors of it; Georg Balan and the directors of the 'Musicosophia' Institute in Germany, who were so kind to instruct me in its use. It shows that the ceremony opens and closes with the same musical statement. In between are the six calls and seven responses. The seven responses are divided by two highly irregular rhythmic interventions that each time push the calls higher up in the melodic scale. Much could be added about this piece, where each note does have a function, but I have to limit myself in this written account. Obviously it will be hard to deny a total analogy between the Law of Seven and the musical structure of this piece, that in all likelihood represents a ceremony performed to anchor the specific characteristics of this law into the life of the community.

Prayer and Despair (second hymn from the album 'Sacred Hymns) Basic Textual Facts: 'Prayer and Despair' consists of one small melodic formula that is repeated throughout (hereafter referred to as: 'the formula'). This form of music is called 'iterative' and is usually associated with primitive or simple traditional folk music. The formula of this hymn, however, is not only of an astonishing beauty, but is a mathematical pattern in which the numbers 3 and 7 are interwoven. It has 3 units, divided over 7 counts, the first unit being in its turn also divided in 7 smaller sub-counts. ( see overhead 2) The composition starts with the statement of the formula in its pure form, played in the middle region of the instrument. Then it is repeated a number of times in the bass region, adding more and more embellishments. [4] This process is repeated 3 times, until an entirely new melodic influence intervenes, after which the piece ends with the last Statement of the formula. Formula + left hand repeats give respectively the numbers 14, 7 and 8, suggesting strongly that the formula itself is part of a greater cycle of 7. The 7 subcounts of the first unit of the formula are enlarged in 7 counts of the formula and again enlarged in the 7 (with the one 8 as exception) repeats of the formula. 3 cycles of 7 embedded within each other. The formula - in either pure or embellished formal - is repeated 32 times. This chain of repetition is broken up in 3 well-defined places, where the formula falls apart in a bass line to sustain the melody. These deviations are melody driven and are indicated below. The most striking of these is the 32-component [5], where a new melody is coming in.

Start: right hand formula; 7-counts left hand formulas in counts: 8-7-7-7-8-8-7-7-7-8-7-7-4 right hand formula renewed left hand formulas in counts: 7-7-7-8-7-7 right hand formula renewed left hand formulas in counts: 7-7-9-6-11-8-7 right hand formula renewed twice new melodic Intervention in counts: 4-4-32 right hand formula renewed for the last time end. In the context of the 'Laws' of Gurdjieff it is of course difficult to avoid the association between the two break-ups (see above 8 and 9) and the two intervals in the 'Law of Seven' and not to interpret the 32-component at the end of the piece as a breakthrough of a new octave. The more so because this whole composition is an extremely complex labyrinth of musical units of three and seven. Each time the left hand takes over the formula, a higher placed melody starts; a long line without any rest or pause; it never breaks or stops: an 'unending'-melody. It becomes temporarily silent each time the formula is renewed. So the composition consists of three basic components: the formula itself, the variations of the formula in the bass and the melody line. These are placed in three defined and limited regions of the keyboard and do not intermingle. These three components suggest to me totally different atmospheres that, although they do not touch each other, maintain a balance together, like three planets circling around each other in a blue sky. In the middle of the piece the whole delicately balanced construction is threatened by a flood of left-hand arpeggios. This flood, representing no doubt the 'despair' component, is brought about by a harmonic shift in the formula as played in the bass. Instead of the fifth note of the scale (a) the formula stops, again and again until the end of the entire composition only at the fourth note (g), creating tension because the unfinished 'sub-tonic' is denied the harmonic solution of the 'tonic'. It is noteworthy that whereas the bass cannot resolve the tension of the sub-tonic 'g', the formula in the right hand goes on unaltered - and keeps sounding the resolutionnote 'a'. Further it should not be missed that even after the new melodic Intervention, that sounds like grace from heaven, the bass cannot raise the 'g' to the 'a' level and diminish the tension. That leaves the piece with an open end: the bass is unresolved, the prayer, the 'formula', is in harmony with itself, but neither 'formula' nor the new melody that sheds its light and consolation can reach or influence the unfinished stateof-affairs within the bass-formula. Interpretation: With reference to the limitations of any interpretation given earlier in this article I will quite simply give my vision as stimulated by the basic facts.

This piece has at least a title - thank God - and therefore we know that it is about prayer and despair. The 'formula' represents the inner praying of man. Its sounds resigned, quietly and withdrawn, in between all the turmoils. It has to be renewed all the time, has to be continuous. The unending melody line sounds far off, another world, where creation is expanding all the time. The bass line stands for the earth. The first interval occurs; how remarkable that listeners are not mentally aware that something is happening, but their feeling and sensation notice a difference. The bass line continues in a seemingly harmonious state but reaches the first long held note ('fermate'). This note sounds like a sombre warning, something is going to happen, tension accumulates, but we do not know what is going to come. This note is the 'g'. Would it be accidental that the last 'warning-gong' of the First Temple Hymn was a 'g' also? Would it be accidental that g-minor is the tonality that Mozart exclusively employs for his most desperate moments? [6] No. This note is a symbol for the unfinished state of the earth and the suffering caused by that. The despair comes in like roiling waves that shake the house. But the prayer inside man is renewed, again and again. Then, after the prayer has been repeated twice, a heavenly melody breaks through like a ray of sunlight. This tenderness pervades everything, but the bass sounds again soft, like a sombre echo, the 'g' as a remembrance that the state of the earth is not and cannot be altered. What strikes the most is the inner relation of the three components: earth - inner prayer - heaven. Only the inner prayer is able to reach the harmony note 'a', provided this prayer is according to the intricate pattern of three and seven. This suggest that without the inner prayer, not only the whole construction would fall apart but the earth note would have to fall down the scale from 'g' back to 'd', which means here 'Holy The Firm' below the low end of the octave. This musical piece becomes unforgettable the moment one realises that it tells us that only the inner prayer of mankind keeps this creation in balance. If one can visualise the mathematical construction while remaining open towards the emotional impact of this composition, one is overcome by such awe that all further words stop.

Wim van Dullemen

[1]...Quotation from Uwe Fricke, Director of the Int. School for Education in Conscious Music Listening, Germany, from a private conversation '97 [3]...A transcription of sounds in another medium is called 'onomatopoeia', and I do have reason to believe that they occur in the musical work of Gurdjieff. [4]...De Hartmann did not 'bar' this manuscript, which is an unusual practice.

[5]...Remember that the total repeat of formula is also 32! I doubt if the slightest note in this piece is accidental and the recurrence of the number 32 is reminiscent of Bach's famous number trick in the first prelude of 'Das Wohltemperierte Klavier' . [6]...Misha Donat 'Mozart's Piano Concertos' 1993, included in the Philips-cassette of the piano performances by Mitsuko Uchida.

Hymn from a great Temple I

The Formula: consits of: 3 units and 7 counts first unit consists of: 7 counts


Architecture of the 'magnified' formula: 3 concentric circles: first seven counts form one unit in seven counts; these seven counts form one count in a greater cycle of seven counts.

Architecture of whole composition: