George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (January 13, 1866–1877? - October 29, 1949), also commonly referred to as Georges Ivanovich Gurdjieff and G. I. Gurdjieff, was an influential spiritual teacher of the early to mid 20th century who taught that most humans live their lives in a state of hypnotic "waking sleep", but that it is possible to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff developed a method for doing so, calling his discipline "The Work" (connoting "work on oneself") or "the Method". According to his principles and instructions, Gurdjieff's method for awakening one's consciousness is different from that of the fakir, monk or yogi, so his discipline is also called (originally) the "Fourth Way". At one point, he described his teaching as being "esoteric Christianity".
At different times in his life, Gurdjieff formed and closed various schools around the world to teach The Work. He claimed that the teachings he brought to the West from his own experiences and early travels expressed the truth found in ancient religions and wisdom teachings relating to self-awareness in people's daily lives and humanity's place in the universe. The title of his third series of writings, Life Is Real Only Then, When 'I Am', expresses the essence of his teachings. His complete series of books is entitled All and Everything.
The Gurdjieff music divides into three distinct periods. The first period is the early music, including music from the ballet Struggle of the Magicians and music for early Movements, dating to the years around 1918.
The second period music, for which Gurdjieff arguably became best known, written in collaboration with Russian composer Thomas de Hartmann, is described as the Gurdjieff-de Hartmann music. Dating to the mid 1920's, it offers a rich repertory with roots in Caucasian and Central Asian folk and religious music, Russian Orthodox liturgical music, and other sources. This music was often first heard in the salon at the Prieuré, where much was composed. Since the publication of four volumes of this piano repertory by Schott, recently completed, there has been a wealth of new recordings, including orchestral versions of music prepared by Gurdjieff and de Hartmann for the Movements demonstrations of 1923–24. Solo piano versions of these works have been recorded by Cecil Lytle and Keith Jarrett.
The last musical period is the improvised harmonium music which often followed the dinners Gurdjieff held in his Paris apartment during the Occupation and immediate post-war years, to his death in 1949. A virtually encyclopedic collection of surviving recordings was recently released. A detailed booklet includes thoughts from producer Gert-Jan Blom and a preface by Robert Fripp. In all, Gurdjieff in collaboration with de Hartmann composed some 200 pieces. And most recently in May 2010, 38 minutes of unreleased solo piano music on acetate was purchased by Neil Kempfer Stocker from the estate of his late stepdaughter Dushka Howarth.