Aftertones of Gymnopédie: Channeling the Spirit of Satie

Yesterday marked the 152nd anniversary of the birth of the colorfully eccentric French avant-garde composer, Erik Satie (1866-1925). Satie had a profound influence on later composers, from Debussy, Ravel, and Milhaud, to the neoclassicism of Stravinsky. Even more amazing is the way Satie’s music anticipates the minimalist and ambient styles of the late twentieth century. The three serene Gymnopédies for solo piano, completed in 1888, remain Satie’s most famous and powerfully evocative works. With sublime, …

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Happy 150th Birthday, Erik Satie

Yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of Erik Satie (1866-1925), the colorfully eccentric French avant-garde composer whose work anticipated later movements such as Surrealism, Dadaism, and late twentieth-century minimalism. Satie described many of his pieces as “Furniture music.” This music purposely stayed in the background, stripping away any hint of overwrought emotion. In the century between Haydn’s twenty minute-long classical symphonies and Wagner’s eighteen-hour-long Ring Cycle, concert music generally grew bigger, louder, …

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The Power of Simplicity: Satie’s Gymnopédies

Italian-born pianist Aldo Ciccolini passed away last week at the age of 89. He will be remembered as a champion of French piano music, especially the works of early twentieth century avant-garde composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). Here is Ciccolini performing Satie’s Trois Gymnopédies. This music was especially shocking in 1888 when it was published. It doesn’t drive towards any goal. Instead, it floats along with a powerful, hypnotic simplicity. I should be a very foolish pianist …

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