Project Influences


G.I. Gurdjieff was a philosopher, teacher, and mystic. He believed that people were generally stuck in a state of “waking sleep”, and in order to truly perceive reality we need posses a greater consciousness through connecting our inner and outer worlds and thus understanding the intimate connection between our 3 functions: physical, emotional, and mental. Gurdjieff’s exploration of non-habitual movement through his “sacred dances” is the backbone of utilizing the Orbitar as an extension of the body to focus inner awareness. Gurdjieff is discussed at length above in the “Goals & Applications” section.


Harry Partch was interested in corporeality and tying music to the natural speaking voice. He worked with a 43 tone microtonal scale of his creation on custom-made instruments he invented and built. He was also interested in connecting ancient ritual to modern music creation. According to writer David Quantick, “The sheer size of the instruments compelled musicians to move in a different way, which led to a new form of performance, part dance and part ritual theatre” (Chesworth). Partch’s philosophy and work resonates with the key concepts behind the Orbitar on many levels. His concern with corporeality, the attitude, posture, and active physical involvement of the musician, is the driving force behind the principle of utilizing the Orbitar as an extension of the body to explore non-habitual movement. Partch’s concern with tying music to the natural speaking voice is the driving force behind the vocal component of the Orbitar and the necessity to explore non-traditional scales and tones. And Partch’s concern with ancient ritual is the driving force behind the necessity of the Orbitarist to be a simultaneous singer, dancer, composer, and poi spinner, and to draw upon poi spinning’s ancient Maori roots. In the words of Partch:
"My music and my instruments are the expression of an ancient tradition in which sight and sound unite toward the achievement of a single dramatic purpose. This is not concert music, it finds its highest purpose in collaboration with other arts, with dance, with tragedy, with satire, with farce... in ancient ritual, primitive ritual, everything was involved" (Chesworth).


Founder of The National Institute For Play, Stuart Brown has studied and cataloged the effects of play in all stages of human and animal life to demonstrate its importance in sculpting the brain and achieving success and happiness. Specifically relating to the Orbitar is Brown’s research on Body Play and Movement, one of the 7 categories of play Brown has defined. In his book Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Brown states, “Play is nature’s greatest tool for creating new neural networks and for reconciling cognitive difficulties. The abilities to make new patterns, find the unusual among the common, and spark curiosity and alter observation are all fostered by being in a state of play” (Brown). Poi has always been considered a form of play. In ancient times poi was part of the whare tapere, or the house of entertainment, where people gathered to engage in leisure activities (Paringatai). Today it finds a similar home under the term “skill toys”, which encompasses props used for dexterity play or object manipulation such as hula-hoop’s and yoyo’s. Poi is intrinsically playful, and is a powerful tool for fostering innovation, flexibility, adaptability, and resilience, which according to Brown all have their roots in on Body Play and Movement.

Poi as a form of play also bridges the gap between the outer and inner worlds as described by Gurdjieff under the “Goals & Applications” link. According to Brown, “Real play interacts with and involves the outside world, but it fundamentally expresses the needs and desires of the player. It emerges from the imaginative force within. That’s part of the adaptive power of play: with a pinch of pleasure it integrates our deep physiological, emotional, and cognitive capacities." The Orbitar is a powerful tool for learning about the self movement that structures an individual’s knowledge of the world. And because poi spinning is done for its own sake, arising out of innate motivations, it typically occurs during periods of the most synaptic neural growth. The act of playing with poi lights up the brain and gives form to internal inchoate desires and needs.

Brown, Stuart. Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. New York: Penguin Group. 2009.
Chesworth, Darren. The Outsider: The Story of Harry Partch. BBC, 1974.