Erik Satie
Gymnopédies


4.5
superb

Review

by taylormemer USER (92 Reviews)
May 20th, 2008 | 28 replies


Release Date: 1888 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Erik Satie's Gymnopedies will dazzle and inspire, encompassing the listener in a 4 dimensional world of space-time.

Little yet powerful was composer Erik Satie. Overshadowed by his French contemporaries such as Ravel and Debussy, Satie was somewhat of an oddball in the late 19th century. During this spell he wrote many little pieces for the pianoforte, including the infamous Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes. In these Satie showed an amazingly unique style and contemporary mind, which would later assist in both his success and dismissal.

While dominant figures within the French repertoire such as Murice Ravel and Claude Debussy were pinning their contemporary compositional styles against the rest of the world, little Erik Satie resided in his small apartment in Paris composing “Furniture Music” as he preferred to call it, or music that is deliberately not to be listened to. Despite this, one cannot help but listen to what this little figure had to say to the larger world.

His Gymnopédies are probably his most recognisable works, particularly the first. The three were composed during 1888 and were clouded by other important late romantic pillars such as Tchaikovsky’s 5th symphony. The Gymnopédies appear to be like a second chapter after his earlier Sarabandes (1887), which are immersive but certainly not as pure as later compositions. Commencing in as slow (marked as “Lent”) ¾ time, the three pieces are more reminiscent of vanished soundscapes; a portrait of Satie’s busy impressionistic mind. Each shares a common melodic and rhythmic structure, pulling the listener into a gentle daze as he or she is moulded around Satie’s psyche of tonality.

The first instalment begins with a fuzzy percussive like G bass note followed attentively by a B minor chord, thus completing a G major 7th. The second bar follows the same principle on the tonic note (D). For anyone wishing to explore the world of 7ths on the piano, these pieces are well suited, and are not technically enduring. The right hand follows after the small introduction in the left hand with the most renowned of his melodic lines, in the golden key of D major. This melodic theme is so simple yet so beautiful and unique that it complements the spirit of all of Satie’s later works. It is within this first theme that Brian Eno was to find grand inspiration for his idea of “ambient music,” later to be mastered by acts such as Aphex Twin, and to be subtly exploited by the New Age genre.

Both second and third installments aren’t as celebrated as the first, but they are in themselves necessary for completing the idea that Satie strived to propose. The second explores a darker theme, where as the third goes in and out of a relaxing sublimated theme, similar to the first. However during the first listen, the listener may be somewhat dazzled by the last two as they are very, very similar. But this is what makes Satie sound like Satie. It feels as if he doesn’t want us to listen to it, but when we do, we are sucked into a 4-dimensional world of time and space. Both are also designed with a melodic like line in the right hand, and accompaniment bass in the left, again using the delightful sub-dissonance of 7th chords. The pianist must and has to remember that while playing these pieces, a strict pianissimo dynamic is to be maintained to allow placement for the melodic line, which is to be played a little louder.

The three together as a whole explore a similar theme, possibly that of the nudist ancient Greek dance called “Gymnopaedia.” Satie himself was after all, well taught in the boundaries of Greek culture. Their expressions appear to be represented within different moments of time, so much so, that while viewing the art forms of Cubist expressionists such as Picasso and Braque, one may be reminded of Satie’s works, which are by definition the same if not similar to Cubism. To explore a similar theme in different stages or time frames is to be Cubist, and Satie shows this off captivatingly well. Sometimes even Modernistic themes any give rise to other trains of thought while listening. It appears that a small niche of people, Satie included, were paving the way through this pre-Cubist/pre-Modernism medium during the late 19th century. Amazingly this would influence the imaginative minds of not just artists, but significant theoretical physicists like Einstein, Schrödinger and Plank.

Later on, Debussy was to appraise these pieces in a set of orchestrations, showing his public appreciation for the composer and his works. But his appraisal wouldn’t stop within the classical orchestra. Nowadays there are so many variations and themes based upon these “Furniture Works” that aren’t meant to be directly listened to, one cannot help but think that if Satie were alive today he would have been bemused by the amount of attribution, maybe even disgusted.

Even so, these pieces are extremely important by anyone’s standard. While they are short and relatively innocent, they are in themselves fundamentally significant to all later modern experimental music. Satie in a way seemed to recognise the importance of pushing not only his mind, but the minds of his followers and listeners. The Gymnopédies will be a refreshing and enlightening listen, even to someone just introducing themselves to piano music.



Recent reviews by this author
Hans Zimmer InterstellarMachine Head Bloodstone and Diamonds
Arch Enemy War EternalCavern Cavern
Hans Zimmer The Dark Knight RisesPeriphery Periphery II: This Time It's Personal
user ratings (97)
4.4
superb

Comments:Add a Comment 
JordanS
May 20th 2008


319 Comments


wtf is with all the classical reviews

robin
Emeritus
May 20th 2008


4594 Comments


because classical music needs reviews too?

taylormemer
May 20th 2008


4962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This review is old. I dad to resubmit because of the crash. There is two more classical reviews after this one, plus three others in other genres. So bleh.

foreverendeared
May 20th 2008


14677 Comments


this is a really awesome review, so i'm glad you resubmitted it

JordanS
May 20th 2008


319 Comments


ah ic

that would explain it

although it seems like in the last 3 months alot more people have been reviewing classical music

AlexTM510
February 10th 2009


1459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I just learned no.3 on piano...was really easy yet indescribably powerful music.



I'm gonna learn the other two, this is incredible. Good review

taylormemer
February 10th 2009


4962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

They're all really quite easy, try out the Gnossiennes as well. No. 2 is very pretty.

rasputin
February 10th 2009


14968 Comments


I used to know one of the Gymnopedies as well, I haven't played it in a long time though

taylormemer
February 10th 2009


4962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Probably the first I'd say. They're all similar in notion, but the first is the more renowned.

AlexTM510
February 10th 2009


1459 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yea....I find it interesting that this was the music that functioned like a precursor to ambient music....like decades before it started.



Read it up on wiki *shrugs* thought it was really coolThis Message Edited On 02.10.09

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
July 18th 2010


17534 Comments


haha the first of these is so ridiculously good. need to hear the other two

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
January 12th 2011


17534 Comments


this is like a 'duh' 5 to me. yum

liledman
July 22nd 2011


3828 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

disappointed to find that the 2nd and 3rd are just less good versions of the 1st basically. its nice and all but i dont know, just feels a little insubstantial.

taylormemer
July 22nd 2011


4962 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Indeed, the first overshadows the rest.

Adabelle
October 17th 2011


4423 Comments


So good man. Gonna have to learn them all..

PorcupineDream
August 30th 2013


2 Comments


Great review, but you should at least have given some credit to the great Reinbert de Leeuw.

treeqt.
September 9th 2013


16964 Comments


there is hella background noise on my reinbert de leeuw version.

JS19
September 9th 2013


7416 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Reinbert de Leeuw playes these like they're supposed to be played. So many people ruin these pieces

with a driving rhythm when it needs to meander to let the tones mix properly. His Gnossienes are

amazing too



But yeah I think I have the same recording because there's some weird gurgling at the low end which

sucks

SynapticPlasticity
March 27th 2014


179 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

As beautiful as it gets. Short, but I love these.

CusmanX1
June 27th 2016


375 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I suggest the interpretation of Jean-Yves Thibaudet, it's brilliant.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2019 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy