Photo courtesy of suiteonestudio.blogspot

BY MONICA SABELLA, A&E Editor

 

Photo courtesy of suiteonestudio.blogspot
Photo courtesy of suiteonestudio.blogspot

If you’ve never heard the Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes of Erik Satie, you have been missing out on one of the most fascinating composers of the 19th century, better known to the music world as the Romantic Period. He may not be Frederic Chopin, but Satie’s approach to music was revolutionary to say the least.

One of the things I love most about the composer Erik Satie is how he can take a few simple notes, a few chords, a steady rhythm and somehow create this inspiring, emotional piece of music. As I listen to Gymnopedie[1] #1, I can imagine the steady fall of rain, droplets sliding down the window, the distant sound of a car passing, its wheels pushing through the massive puddles. As the tune fades the rain is slowing to a drizzle and the sun is considering leaving its place of shelter, behind the clouds.

The sounds fade and then the beginning chords of the second Gymnopedie begin. The story continues, light filtering in through the gentle sprinkles. The sun peaks out for a short period, then ducks behind a cloud again as the third movement commences.

Photo courtesy of search24news.com
Photo courtesy of search24news.com

Each of Satie’s pieces tell a story. Of course, many would say the same could be said for any musician. Satie is different, though, in that his creativity is not limited to his audience; it’s visible throughout his compositions. The traditional cues of dynamics have been replaced with descriptions, emotions and images Satie wished the pianist to experience. Instead of instructing the musician with terms like forte (loud) and piano(soft), Satie says “with the tip of your thought,” “very lost,” and “open your head. Bury the sound.”

In one of his compositions, ”Chapitres Tournés en Tous Sens[2],” near the climax of the piece he writes, “Wait. He feels the rock slipping from his grasp: it’s going to fall. Pause. That’s done it!-It falls.” I’ve never heard of any composer approaching music the way Satie does. If nothing else, he was a unique individual. Personally, the Gymnopedies 1-3 as well as Gnossienne numbers 3 and 4 are his best pieces. But don’t take my word for it. Go see for yourself.

[1] A word, like gnoissienne, both of which he made up.

[2] The Bearer of Large Stones