George Ivanovich (G.I.) Gurdjieff was a strange motherfucker. Dude was obsessed with those big questions like “where are we”, “why are we”, and “why are we here”. You see I didn’t say he was “interested”. I said obsessed and I fucking meant it. Back in the early 1900s, G.I. travelled through Asia, Iran, Russia, India, Tibet, and Rome looking for answers to those big fucking questions by studying the ways of the fakir, monk, and yogi. Well, he probably did these things, but who the fuck really knows? See G.I.’s life isn’t exactly black and white. The multiple biographies, autobiographies, and novels about the dude have more holes in them than a moth’s old wool socks. Some say he supported himself by taking on odd jobs. Others say he was a con man. One of these cons, was that he caught live birds, dying them shits yellow, and sold them off as canaries for some fucking reason. And, yet another account says he was a hypnotherapist/political diplomat that cured people of addictions while simultaneously helping the partnership between Russia and the British Empire. I wouldn’t be surprised if all these stories were entirely true or false. That’s just the kind of guy G.I. was. But somewhere in this crazy story of a life, G.I. came up with a teaching called The Fourth Way. Basically, The Fourth Way says that most people live in a state of “waking sleep” and if we actively study and practice this super duper combo of fakirs, monks, and yogis we can achieve our full human potential, get us some unified fucking consciousness, and elevate ourselves like Elisha on a hot air balloon after taking fucktons of acid. Now why am I ranting on about G.I. and all this crazy shit? Well, the dude also played a mad guitar.
Picture this: Crazy thinker, mystic, and self proclaimed holy man sits cross-legged with a guitar, closes his eyes, and plays whatever comes to mind. The pianist, Thomas de Hartmann, sits beside him and transcribes that shit into notes on a page. It’s a beautiful scene. It’s the kind of shit you expect to find in a Coelho, Kundera, or Harlequin novel. But that’s actually how this shit came into being. It’s how this music was fucking made. Keith Jarret even threw down a solo album of this work called “Gurdjieff: Sacred Hymns” back in 1980.
Gunter Herbig is the guitarist playing G.I.’s work. He chose to play these pieces on the electric guitar. And when you hear it this way, it’s hard to picture it played any other. It’s fucking perfect. Gunter was born in Brazil, grew up in both Portugal and Germany, and currently lives in New Zealand. Along the way he also visited South America, Central America, Europe, and the rest of the fucking world. With each step, he picked up an influence, style, or technique for playing the guitar. His playing is truly cosmopolitan, just like the fucking composer. In his playing there are twangs of the psychedelic, hints of blues, stretches of the sitar, phrasings of Frisell, fucktons of Fahey, buckets of Cooder, lumps of Loren Connors, and traces of modern classical and the shit feels seamless.
As I listened to these tracks it was easy to believe that there is a Fourth Way of doing shit, a way to achieve universal consciousness, and a way to achieve our full human potential. But I didn’t think it had anything to do with studying texts, fasting, or stretching till something strange popped. While listening to this music the Fourth Way seemed obvious. It’s listening to the music of a spiritual teacher and mystic played by a Brazilian/Portuguese/German currently living in New Zealand on the electric guitar and spacing the fuck out while doing so until the entire world looks so small that you realize that, from a far enough away, we aren’t billions spread across a grand expanse but a single fucking drop in an ocean of heartless entropic chaotic fucking blackness and we desperately need to take care of this shit, and each other, right fucking pronto because it’s all we fucking have! Or, you know, maybe the tunes just got to me.