The Early Hollywood Years: 1920-1924
Rudhyar emerged into a new world of feeling and consciousness when through Mrs. Stevenson's sponsorship he was able to reach Hollywood on 1 January 1920. The next morning he met the great Theosophist B. P. Wadia, with whom he formed a close association. "In Philadelphia," Rudhyar states, "I met Mr. Warrington, then the head of the American Theosophical Society, when he lectured in the mansion built by Mrs. Stevenson’s father, a 19th-century copper magnate. When I reached Krotona in the Hollywood Hills, then the American Theosophical headquarters, I took a room nearby, and on January 2nd at breakfast Mr. Warrington greeted me warmly and introduced me to Mr. B. P. Wadia, who had just arrived in America after representing at the League of Nations the nascent Indian Labor Movement, which he initiated, leading a strike in Madras. Wadia was then the ‘right hand’ of Mrs. Annie Besant, then the president of the Theosophical Society. He was the manager of the Theosophical Publishing House and the editor of The Theosophist in which he soon printed my first article written in English, Inertia and the Mystery of Evil."
"A series of remarkable lectures," Rudhyar continues, "Wadia gave during the winter of 1922 in Hollywood on The Secret Doctrine stimulated me to study HPB’s monumental work further. For quite a long time, I gave to this study a couple hours every morning. I was particularly fascinated by the constant reference to cycles, because, when I was only sixteen in Paris, I had had an intuitive realization that all life processes and the very essence of ‘Time’ were cyclic."
The 1920s were Hollywood's great days, and Mrs. Stevenson had beautiful plans for dedicating the hills to creative and spiritual activities. She had produced a Life of Buddha on the grounds of the Theosophical Society headquarters, Krotona, in the Hollywood Hills. Walter Hampden and Ruth St. Denis performing the main roles. Later she decided to produce a Life of Christ and commissioned Rudhyar to write scenic music for it. But her Hollywood associates, and even the President of the American Theosophical Society, Mr. Warrington, could not share her vision. Disappointed, she gave up the idea of using the Bowl property (which she had purchased for $40,000 with Mrs. Chauncey Clarke — Marie Rankin Clarke) and bought the adjacent hills for the same price. There she built an amphitheater (now the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre) and during the summer of 1920 The Life of Christ was first performed. Unfortunately, Mrs. Stevenson soon died in mysterious circumstances (1922-23) while she was preparing to produce a Life of St. Francis of Assisi. She had made Rudhyar her musical director.
It was in 1920 while living in a cottage near the Krotona Theosophical headquarters and having befriended a Dutch woman, Mrs. Van Vliet who was deeply interested in music, theosophy and astrology, that Rudhyar decided to investigate astrology and learn its techniques - classes being provided free. At Krotona he also met Alice Bailey, who later founded the Arcane School and the Lucis Publishing Company, which published his first books on astrology, The Astrology of Personality (1936) and New Mansions for New Men (1938). During 1920 he also began a close friendship with a remarkable woman, Aryel Darma, who brought him inwardly closer to spiritual realities. His association with the great Parsi Theosophist, B. P. Wadia had likewise a determining influence, leading him to a thorough study of H. P. Blavatsky's Secret Doctrine. Through these prolonged contacts Rudhyar's mind emerged in a rebirth of understanding and clarity of vision. What had been almost prophetic intuition in 1911 became developed, stabilized and fully creative ten years later in Hollywood.
Rudhyar - The Theosophical Mystery
B. P. Wadia (pictured above, opposite Rudhyar) evidently recognized Rudhyar's destiny and believed he had a special role to play in the Theosophical Movement, and perhaps Wadia also saw in Rudhyar an opportunity to somehow compensate for the manner in which Annie Besant was at the time promoting Krishnamurti as the vehicle of the coming Maitreya. Wadia undoubtedly felt indirectly responsible for the Krishnamurti situation because of the little known fact that it was he who first recognized something "special" about the boy, to whom he later brought to the attention of C. W. Leadbeater.
By 1923 Wadia broke with Mrs. Besant and her Adyar arm of the Theosophical Movement. Immediately afterwards he became the prime-mover of the United Lodge of Theosophists. Wadia passed away in 1958.
Rudhyar continued composing. He came to New York for the 1922-23 season and performed some of his piano compositions at a concert for the International Composers Guild, of which he was an original member. He was also a founder of the New Music Society, initiated by Henry Cowell. Rudhyar's Surge of Fire was performed in Los Angeles at the first concert of the New Music Society, October 1925, and later on in New York. A performance took place at the California Institute of the Arts in May 1971, James Tenney conductor. In addition to composing and studying, Rudhyar was beginning to be a prolific writer of articles, now in English. Articles on Erik Satie and on Stravinsky were published in the April and October 1919 issues of The Musical Quarterly. In his article The Relativity of Our Musical Conceptions Rudhyar began championing Oriental music and wrote of future non-European types of music. He also provided material for Salzedo's magazine Eolus, for theosophical publications, and for the Christian Science Monitor.
JAVARTAM - Java Art in America
The shop at 7020 Hollywood Blvd., operated by Aryel Darma (pictured in the center, left) and Rudhyar. Aryel was an associate of Wadia's, and the two had already established a close friendship before Wadia first visited America in 1919. Like Rudhyar, during the 1920s Aryel acted on the silent screen, having a starring role in the highly-rated 1926 film The Smoke Eaters and a supporting role in The Show Girl, 1927. After the destruction of the shop by fire, she was forced to return to Holland, where she had hoped to find success acting in Dutch and German films. Instead, Aryel passed away in 1928.
By the late-1920s Wadia was traveling a great deal, founding many new theosophical lodges. When he finally returned to India, around the time of Aryel's passing, Rudhyar passed though a period of psychic and spiritual aloneness, but soon emerged into a broader sphere of activity.
Rudhyar worked with his friend Aryel Darma, who had lived in Java, in creating a store, Javartam, which brought for the first time all kinds of Indonesian art-products, batiks, and other artifacts to America. Unfortunately, the store at 7020 Hollywood Blvd. and most of its contents were destroyed by a fire originating in an adjoining Russian restaurant. During this time Rudhyar also played bit parts and supporting roles in motion pictures, and for seven months acted as the Christ in Grauman's Theater prologue for the first version of The Ten Commandments by C. B. de Mille (1924). Rudhyar also appeared as the Christ in de Mille's 1924 silent version of The Ten Commandments, and had a supporting role in Alan Crosland's 1924 film, Three Weeks. He was also involved in an attempt at creating a Little Film Movement; and with a friend planned to develop "Introfilms" — films which would depict inner psychological states through series of images. These attempts — also one at creating a World-Music Society, and another in 1924 , Hamsa Publications, dedicated to the building of a new American culture — were totally abortive, being far ahead of the times.
Rudhyar, who in 1924 had not composed for two years, instead writing essays and studying Hindu music from books and through his friendship with singer and dancer Ragini Devi (an American women who would go on to become one of the most renown and respected dancers of India) began a new musical phase that year with the composition of the Moments. These were originally 22 tone-poems broadly associated in principle with the Tarot cards. They were published by Birchard (Boston) in 1930 as three books of five pieces each. These constitute now the four Pentagrams (I. The Coming Forth, 2. The Enfolding, 3. The Release, 4. The Human Way). Later on a series of works called Tetragrams were composed, the last one in 1968. There are now nine Tetragrams, each including four short sections (I. The Quest-1920, 2. Crucifixion-1926, 3. Rebirth-1927, 4. Adolescence-1925, 5. Solitude-1927, 6. Emergence-1929, 7. Tendrils-1924, 8. Primavera-1928, 9. Summer Nights-1968).
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