Movements with Mrs Adie (Pt I)

Helen Adie (1909-1996) and her husband George Adie (1901-1989) had been pupils of Ouspensky for some years, and then of Gurdjieff in 1948 and 1949. Mrs Adie was already a celebrated concert pianist, and, at Gurdjieff’s direction, was intensively taught the movements. I recall Mr Adie telling me that when he (Mr Adie) went away for a period, it may have been the trip he made to Ceylon for Gurdjieff, Gurdjieff had Mrs Adie taught all the movements (that is what Mr Adie said), and when he returned he was almost frightened of her – she was full of a poised energy and her eyes were as large as saucers. I also recall Mrs Adie telling me that Gurdjieff asked her to write music for a movement which he only described to her. When she returned with her music, he said something like: “Not bad, but it needs more. Watch the movement now, and see.” The movement was then performed, and she realised at once that the bass needed to be heavier.

So Gurdjieff did ask her to write music for some of his movements, and approved her work arranging Jeanne de Salzmann’s accompaniments. She even wrote music for all 39 of the final series, but when the de Hartmann music was produced she put aside her own compositions and never, so far as I know, returned to them, although some of them were quite outstanding.

After Gurdjieff’s death, the Adies became leading members of the London group under Jeanne de Salzmann and Henriette Lannes, with Mrs Adie the chief movements pianist. In 1964, Mr Adie’s poor health obliged them to leave England and resettle in a warmer climate. Thus they came to begin a Gurdjieff group in Sydney in 1966. The best introduction to Mrs Adie’s approach to movements might be to quote her letter to Jeanne de Salzmann of 2 July 1969. Adie wrote there:

Movements I find a big challenge now that I have thirty or more people doing them for the first time. I feel an immense gratitude to you, and after (you) to Alfred (Etievan), Lise (Etievan), Marthe (de Gaigneron), and Solange (Claustres) for the extraordinary training I had and realise now for the first time. I hardly need to say that I also feel my lack, as it is obvious that I am bound to do so. I am very much aware of my weakness in finding words to express what I want to convey, and even more in producing and maintaining throughout the class, the level of attention and sense of presence that I would wish to have.

I model my classes to some extent on those Saturday evening classes you used to give at the Pleyel when Gurdjieff was still here. I give some different exercises each time, mostly created for the purpose. These consist of simple sensation exercises, based on those I have done at (the London group’s premises), exercises with sequences of simple positions, rhythms done in various ways, movements in canon – in fact I am trying to make relatively easy exercises based on as many types of movement and rhythm that I know. At the same time the class always has one movement going, such as No. 11, or No. 30, that it learns in its entirety as I feel it is essential that they experience something of the real movements. I only regret that my repertoire is rather limited. I have done so many in my time, all the 39 and many others, but I never made (notes) until just before I left England, as I never dreamed that I should one day have to teach them. I feel that I am learning a great deal myself from this work, and inadequate though it is, it is also rewarding, as the pupils take them very seriously and make good efforts and appreciate the class very much. I do feel that I have it in me to convey something if I can only learn to “get it out”. I find that it takes a lot of planning to give the exercises in such a way that their attention has to be strained a little but not so that they get confused. Of course some are naturally skilful and others seem incapable of the smallest movement, so I am faced with the problem of how to give all an experience they can profit by. So far I am my own pianist. This does not make it easier, but it can be managed, and soon, I think, one of the pupils will be able to demonstrate for me, which will help.


            … With love from, Helen

Joseph Azize, 25 April 2020



  1. This is a post full of interesting detail for this reader.
    Did Mr Aidie further elucidate finding Mrs. Aidie
    “full of a poised energy and her eyes were as large as saucers”
    “which almost frightened (him) of her”?

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