Erik Satie – Trois Gnossiennes

Erik Satie (1866-1925)

A French composer and pianist.  Satie was part of a group of composers known as Les Six.

In Satie’s early compositions, the music is reduced down to its bare essentials, and emotion and expressivity are strictly controlled.  The melody in each piece is modal.  The melodic lines flow seamlessly, and there is a simple chordal accompaniment of mildly dissonant, modal chord progressions that don’t resolve.  The accompaniment is straightforward (a sustained note followed by a blocked chord) and has a constant rhythm.  This constant rhythm gives the pieces a static feel.  The music is not divided up into measures.  Satie likes to take certain motivic structures and join them together randomly with other structures.  The use of modes makes the music sound archaic and at the same time very modern.

Here are the first three of Satie’s six Gnossienne.  They are played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet.  The Gnossienne were composed in 1890.