Wednesday, April 8, 2009

“Gymnopédie #1"

Who doesn’t like Erik Satie? No one, right? Eberle & I have both loved Satie’s music for a long while, & back in the Alice in Wonder Band days when our clarinetist Bob George expressed an interest in working the 3 Gymnopédies up to performance level, we were intrigued.

We were intrigued because the question was: how to do it? Satie’s work is so piano oriented—much like Thelonious Monk’s music in a way, to mention another quirky master piano composer. Obviously, Bob would play the clarinet, but how to accompany him?

After much casting about, we decided on this set-up. First, we’d perform these as a trio—Bob, Eberle & I. This wasn’t that unusual—for a number of reasons, we had certain Alice in Wonder Band songs that included some group members & not others (this was partly because the group was geographically far-flung, & it was hard for everyone to rehearse together). Eberle’s great at making fun & unusual arrangements, & she came up with the idea of her playing electric bass & me playing tenor ukulele—specifically, a Fluke brand tenor scale uke tuned down a fourth to dgbe. This isn’t an unheard of uke tuning (see last week’s post about uke people & the discussion of Lyle Ritz), but it does have a sort of betwixt & between sound because the strings are really pretty slack.

One note about the recording—I’ve been planning on putting the Gymnopédies up for awhile, but I didn’t recall that the bass was so far back in the mix. Sadly, these recordings from June 2004 never had a final mix, & I don’t have access to the master files. The bass really should be more prominent. Of course, I listened to this on some pretty tinny little speakers, so it may be better for you—one can hope. I did check a live version, & while the bass is marginally better on that, there’s a lot of background noise, so I settled on this one.

Hope you enjoy. I’ll post Gymnopédies #2 & #3 in the next few weeks.


  1. This was just lovely, John! Nice arrangent. And perfect choice of naturalist prints to accompany. Thanks for sharing. Love Satie!

  2. Good morning, John! I love Satie's Gymnopedies. I teach them a lot because they're accessible, French, Impressionist. I have a hard time teaching any Ravel-he's just too tricky for the intermediate, I teach some Debussy, but ah, the Satie. Beautiful work

  3. Superb, as were the visuals. Not always they are as good.

  4. Hi Willow, Chris, Dave & Sandra:

    Thanks so much-- glad you all liked it. Chris: I think Eberle has taught Satie a bit too.

    I'll put #2 & #3 up fairly soon.

  5. I too, enjoy Satie. I am reminded of the BBC series, "Traffik" as the piece was used to great effect in it.

    I also like the sound of the word "gymnopedie". It is fun to say.

    Your rendition was charming and I loved the accompanying visuals.



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