Here’s the third & final installment of Satie’s Gymnopédies as performed by the Alice in Wonder Band, a fun ensemble Eberle & I belonged to from 2001-2004. If you’d like to learn a bit more about the Alice in Wonder Band, just click here—you’ll find a band history, as well as some more tunes & some pictures.
The Gymnopédies date from quite early in Satie’s career, with the first & third being published in 1888; oddly the second Gymnopédie wasn’t published until 1895. The pieces were based on the following by J.P. Contamine de Latour, from his poem Les Antiques (The Ancients):
Oblique et coupant l'ombre un torrent éclatant
Ruisselait en flots d'or sur la dalle polie
Où les atomes d'ambre au feu se miroitant
Mêlaient leur sarabande à la gymnopédie
Slanting and shadow-cutting a flickering eddy
Trickled in gusts of gold to the shiny flagstone
Where the ambre atoms in the fire mirroring themselves
Mingled their sarabande to the gymnopaedia
Wikipedia has a discussion about the meanings of the word & which of those may have attracted Cotamine & Satie:
- dance - probably, as he mentions it alongside another dance, the saraband(e);
- antiquity - supposedly, given the title of the poem. This however does not yet give a clear picture of how antiquity was perceived in late 19th-century France (see below);
- nudity - maybe, although words like "gymnastique" (gymnastics) and "gymnase" (gymnasium) based on the same Greek word for nudity (γυμνός - "gymnos") were common in those days, but had lost any reference to nudity;
- warfare (as in Ancient Greece the word indicated a war dance) - probably not; little war-like intent is apparent in the poem;
- religious ceremony/festivity (which was the context of the Ancient gymnopaedia) - probably neither; there seems to be no allusion made to them in the poem.
The Wikipedia editor goes on to suggest that the antiquity & exoticism of the word may have been its main appeal to Satie. Wikipedia then relates how Satie described himself in the 1880s as a “gymnopedist”:
The anecdote of Satie introducing himself as a "gymnopaedist" in December 1887 runs as follows: the first time Satie visited the Chat Noir cabaret, he was introduced to its director, Rodolphe Salis, famous for serving sharp comments. Being coerced to mention his profession, Satie, lacking any recognisable professional occupation, presented himself as a "gymnopaedist", supposedly in an attempt to outwit the director.
Hope you enjoy the music.