A great musician was slandered by a “professional anti-cultist,” vilified, and arrested.
by Susan J. Palmer
This is the story of Mariano Krauz, whose brilliant international career as a solo oboist and emerging composer was suddenly, unexpectedly derailed, due to the ludicrous fantasies of an anticult activist and career apostate, and the opportunistic machinations of PROTEX.
Born in 1964, Mariano Krauz is the grandson of Polish Jews who immigrated to Argentina. Mariano discovered music at age 5 when a music-loving aunt escorted him to recorder lessons. He switched to oboe and soon became a child prodigy, winning prizes since age 13. He studied at the Conservatoire of Amsterdam and by the age of 24 Mariano Krauz became the first oboist in the Teatro Colón, the magnificent opera house in Buenos Aires.
So why did this highly disciplined, conspicuously successful musician join BAYS, a local metaphysical book club that has been catapulted into notoriety through recent media reports and TV shows on Buenos Aires’ “secta del horror”?
An alternative view of “career apostate” Pablo Salum and his relationship with BAYS in a video prepared by BAYS members (not involved in the investigation), ex-members, and relatives: https://www.veoh.com/watch/v142293142s3DwnQ56.
We were sitting in BAYS’ spacious, high-ceilinged café when I asked Mariano this question. It was hard to imagine that this serene space, which opened onto a charming garden courtyard, had, just last August, been the site of the dramatic militarized raid, when police smashed in the front door and held around fifty BAYS philosophy students at gunpoint.
Mariano had a girlfriend whose mother was a BAYS student: “That summer I was preparing for an international competition in Yugoslavia. It was very hot in Buenos Aires, I had no air conditioner. My girlfriend’s mother rented a place in the cool mountains of Calafate, the south of Argentina, and offered me a cabin where I could stay and practice. I was very shy and lonely, but she gave me a book, [Maurice] Nicoll’s [1884–1953] ‘Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky.’ I did not understand it, but he compared human beings to ‘leaves in the wind’—I thought, ‘That’s me.’ So I accepted her invitation, and the next time we went back to Buenos Aires I attended a BAYS meeting.”
Mariano recalled his very first BAYS meeting: “A little boy of 5 spoke up: ‘I want to read a poem I wrote yesterday!’ As the kid read it out, I started to cry. ‘This is my home,’ I thought, ‘a place where people can express themselves.’”
I asked Mariano about his first impressions of Dr. Juan Percowicz, BAYS’ founder: “When I first listened to him [Juan], he gave a long lecture, where he spoke, among other subjects, about the pain of being a musician; of how the music in one’s head is never the same as the music out there. This resonated with me, and I gradually got to know him. He is so wise, his way of being with people… He suggested I learn to play tango. This was one of my first Tasks. [In BAYS the students have an Instructor who suggests ‘Tasks’ that will help them apply philosophical ideas to their daily life.] I was surprised, because I had always played classical music, reading from notation, from a score. Now I had to learn to improvise, to play from memory. It forced me to loosen up, to feel the music in a different way. Playing tango led me to write my first compositions. Now I am more of a composer than an oboe player.”
In the early days of the School, Juan organized many different branches to study the arts, medicine, business, etc. Marian remembers: “We had a [Fyodor] Dostoevsky [1821–1881] group that read ‘The Gambler.’ Together with Dr. Percowicz, we wrote a book called ‘Dostoevsky and the Poker Player’s Marked Cards.’ This inspired me to write an opera called ‘Cartas Marcadas’ (Marked Cards) with my fellow student, Susana Mendelievich. Extracts from this opera were performed at the Salón Dorado of the Teatro Colón, and the overture was performed at the San José Arena in California.”
Plácido Domingo performed a duet from “Marked Cards” at the Campo Argentino de Polo in 1996. Mariano notes, “Plácido Domingo and I were friends for more than twenty years and often worked together, but after the raid the media tried to frame him as a secret member of BAYS. In fact, he had showed no interest in philosophy, and never went to a single BAYS meeting. The scandal about the ‘horror cult’ in the media tainted my public image. Plácido Domingo has now distanced himself from me. It turned out the police had been bugging our phone calls for at least a year before the raid. Now, no one will hire me, I have not put a foot in the Teatro Colón since the raid.”
Then Mariano told a sad story: “Two days before the raid happened, I was meeting with the directors at the Teatro Colón about my ballet for children. We were planning to stage it in 2023. It took me years and years of creating this music written as a ballet. It had been performed in Japan by the Osaka Century Orchestra. People loved it. It was based on a story about Baron Munchausen. The choreographer had changed the plot about ‘Venus, the Baron… and Love’ to be more suitable for kids… but after the August 12, 2022 raid, no one would answer my phone calls. And a concert planned at Teatro Colón for November 25, 2022, with the Academic Orchestra playing part of my ballet was also cancelled. Of course, on the night of the raid I was put in handcuffs and taken away in a paddy wagon to prison where I lived in a basement cell for 84 days with other BAYS men—the supposed ‘human traffickers.’”
But at least the police didn’t break Mariano’s door down: “I was lucky, because I decided not to attend the meeting in the cafe that evening. When I heard the loud noise below, I opened my door on the 10th floor, so when the police arrived, they didn’t bother to smash in my front door like the others. The worst part of it is, they seized my computer. So now I don’t have access to the new compositions I was working on, or to the orchestral scores of my previous compositions.”
Mariano and Juan Percowicz had just spent 18 days in the same prison cell, during a pre-trial investigation into allegations of human trafficking and money laundering. Mariano spent 84 days in prison with his comrades from BAYS, but Dr. Percowicz was allowed to go home after 18 days, where he remained under house arrest.
During our trip to Buenos Aires, Holly Folk and I (Susan J. Palmer) visited Dr. Percowicz in Buenos Aires. He is a retired accountant, now 84, who welcomed us to his modest apartment where he described his lifelong interest in philosophy, particularly esoteric philosophy. As a young man, as I mentioned earlier in this series, he had found a teacher of Raja Yoga and Hindu philosophy, which focuses on divine knowledge, both intellectual and experiential (in contrast to the better known types of yoga: the devotional/ecstatic path of Bhakti Yoga, and the physical discipline of Hatha Yoga). Percowicz is a gifted teacher of philosophical ideas and their application in daily life, so he attracted a small circle of students who kept inviting their friends—until the reading/discussion circle expanded to around 200.
Media told the story differently. Spectrum New BN 9 had claimed: “The Buenos Aires Yoga School, which operated for more than 30 years … under the leadership of 84-year-old Juan Percowicz, did not actually offer yoga classes. Instead, it lured in people with promises of eternal happiness before it exploited them sexually and financially, prosecutors say.”
Mariano described the filthy dark basement prison cell where he and his close friends from BAYS slept on pallets, sharing one latrine for a toilet. Once a week, they were permitted to escape to the courtyard to exercise in the fresh air and sunlight. But Juan stayed behind because he couldn’t climb the stairs.
Mariano recalled the circumstances in prison that led him to work on his new composition, “The Power of God”: “Juan, my philosophy teacher, said to me: ‘Why don’t you write a composition about all this happening to us? Now is the moment. All the emotions and events are fresh in our minds and blood. After sometime, we will start to forget, don’t you think?’ I thought, ‘he is totally right.’ But, I had no pencil or music paper. Then, as if by magic, the prisoners in the cell across from ours lent us a board game that came with some papers and a pen. That got me started. The first song that appeared to me was ‘The Jail Bars Band,’ a jazzy song with lyrics about the ten of us sleeping on the floor, with almost no light and no water, sometimes listening to Juan’s master philosophy classes, sometimes telling our stories, sometimes singing or telling jokes…”
“‘The Jail Bars Band’ became our anthem, Mariano continued. We would sing it together several times a day. It helped bring some happiness and energy to that dark, dirty place. After that song, it was like I had turned on a water tap. Inspiration was flowing and I couldn’t stop composing day and night. Later, I received a paper with music staves [‘pentagrama’ in Spanish] from friends and family, and I started to write a song about the raid we had all just gone through. As the lyrics and music took shape, I would sing the different parts to my cellmates, and two of them became my partners in song. Carlos, the world champion magician, used to sing along with us sometimes, when his health would allow him. So, when ‘The Raid’ was finished, Juan proposed that I write a musical in three acts. Act One was ‘The Raid.’ Our prison time could be the Act Two. And from the moment we get our freedom back, that will be Act Three that will end with the closure of the case. What Juan suggested in prison really happened. Since we were released from prison and got our freedom back, so far I have composed 72 songs with a total duration of more than 4 hours. My dream is that ‘The Power of God’ will be performed around the world, delivering a message of peace, togetherness and tolerance.”