Sometimes by bus; sometimes by jeep or truck or caravanserai; sometimes by donkey, though not if he could help it; and almost always on foot, across rickety bridges and footpaths, up the sides of mountains, through valleys and hills rife with goats and wayward sheep, over rocks and fences, across streams and rivers swollen by rain or dry from drought; carrying a small (but not that small) portable tape recorder, twenty or thirty reels of quarter-inch tape, a couple of microphones, cables, a week’s supply of batteries, a few packs of Fortnum & Mason tea, and a few spare shirts. The shirts have been lost to time and forgotten laundries—but the tapes, the recordings from those travels, still circulate fifty years on, filling listeners with pleasure and astonishment.
David Lewiston was born in London in 1929 and graduated from Trinity College of Music in 1953. Already interested in the spiritual teachings of the mystic G. I. Gurdjieff, Lewiston moved to New York City to study piano and composition with Thomas DeHartmann, Gurdjieff’s aide-de-camp and musical collaborator, and an esteemed composer in his own right. From the Gurdjieff work, Lewiston learned about the many uses of solitude; from his studies with DeHartmann, who had helped Gurdjieff transcribe and notate Eastern hymns and dervish melodies, he learned to hear and appreciate music outside of the Western canon. These proved useful as Lewiston began traveling, but neither talent helped him support himself as a young musician in New York, and he reinvented himself as a financial journalist, working on staff for Forbes and then for an in-house journal of the American Bankers Association, a magazine so dull it practically walked to the trash bin and threw itself away. Read More