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February 26, 2009

Pierre Laniau - Erik Satie: Pièces Pour Guitare

Erik Satie (1866-1925)
The man
For some people, Erik Satie is known as an eccentric who gave his works odd titles that seem almost derisive and ridicolous:

Chilled Pieces, Drivelling Preludes (for a Dog), Dried up Embryos ...

Many believe that this was not only a result of his bizarre wit but also a way of offending the music critics at the time. It was known that Satie didn't like music critics and that the feelings were mutual.

Those performing his works are well aware of his weird instructions to the performer.

The instructions are meant as a dialogue between the composer and the performer only:

To whoever. I forbid anyone to read the text aloud during the musical performance. Failure to obey to my instruction will provoke my just indignation against anyone so presumptuous. No exception to this rule will be granted.

From the short piano piece, titled Vexations (1893):
To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.

This instruction has been taken seriously by many prominent piano performers. Many performances have been made worldwide with great success. But perhaps he was only trying to fool the performer? After all, it isn't an instruction that the performer must play it 840 times. He just stated, "To play this motif 840 times..." Of course, we will never know what was his true intention as the piece wasn't published during his lifetime.

Satie was also a collector. Once someone asked him what he wished for birthday present. He replied - I saw this beautiful handkerchief the other day.... After his death they found in his wardrobe 84 identical handkerchieves, besides 12 identical velvet costumes and dozens of umbrellas.

Satie was considered as an outsider, a lone wolf with projects of his own. For example he founded his own church. As a result he valued his privacy very highly and never let anyone see his apartment in Arceuil, where he lived for the last 27 years of his life. He only had one known relationship in his life - an intense love affair in 1893 with the model, painter and former trapeze artiste Suzanne Valadon.

Satie lived as a true artist, for his music and his ideals. He had no respect for money and lived a poor life for many years. He was never afraid of expressing his true opinion. If he found someone to be a jerk he made this perfectly clear (and took the consequences).

His music
Even though Satie was a fascinating person in many ways, it is his music that is the major reason for his popularity. He was very creative and had a great influence on his colleagues Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Francis Poulenc. Because his music was ahead of his time and regarded as timeless, he also has great influence on many modern composers.

Satie was a forerunner to minimalism. He experimented with what he called furniture music, meant to be in the background rather than listened to. He composed music to be listened at different angles, similar pieces divided into several parts. Many of his compositions have influences from medieval music and from French composers.

His most famous works are the serene Gymnopédies (three similar piano pieces), the mystical Vexations (short piano piece repeated 840 times), the popular piano suite Trois Morceaux en forme de Poire (duet), the ballet Parade (with some very odd instruments) and the ballet Relâche (with film sequences included).

His music was rather unknown and underrated until the 1960s. His popularity has grown ever since.

Cefalophones (by Erik Satie)
2 flutes with keys (F sharp)
1 alto overcoat (C)
1 duckbill (E)
2 stroke clarinets (G flat)
1 siphon in C
3 keyboard trombones (D flat)
1 bass in leather (C)
Chromatic tub in H

Instruments belonging to the remarkable group cefalophones, with 30 octaves extent, completely unperformable. An amateur in Vienna tried in 1875 to handle the siphone in C; after having jared with a piercing drill, the instrument burst, broke the spine on the executor and scalped him completely. Since then no one has dared to concern oneself with the powerful assets that cefalophones contain and the state has forbidden all schools teaching the instruments.

The true musician (by Erik Satie)
He grows in wisdom...He is brilliant...He learns to do without
and is prepared to make great sacrifices...enormous sacrifices...
if I may say...His energy is tremendous...
In other words he is prepared for the struggle...and with honesty he shall fight it...

The performance of an Art demands complete self-denial...
...It was not meant as a joke what I just said...about sacrifices...
The Music makes heavy demands upon those who want to
devote themselves in it...This is what I have wanted you to call your attention to...

A true musician must subordinate himself his Art; ...he must place himself above human suffering; ...he must draw courage from within...and only from within.

What I am
Everyone will tell you I am not a musician. That is correct.
From the very beginning of my career I class myself a phonometrographer. My work is completely phonometrical. Take my Fils des Étoiles, or my Morceaux en forme de Poire, my En habit de Cheval or my Sarabandes - it is evident that musical ideas played no part whatsoever in their composition. Science is the dominating factor.
Besides, I enjoy measuring a sound much more than hearing it. With my phonometer in my hand, I work happily and with confidence.
What haven't I weighed or measured? I've done all Beethoven, all Verdi, etc. It's fascinating.
The first time I used a phonoscope, I examined a B flat of medium size. I can assure you that I have never seen anything so revolting. I called in my man to show it to him.
On my phono-scales a common or garden F sharp registered 93 kilos. It came out of a fat tenor whom I also weighed.
Do you know how to clean sounds? It's a filthy business. Stretching them out is cleaner; indexing them is a meticulous task and needs good eyesight. Here, we are in the realm of pyrophony.
To write my Pièces Froides, I used a caleidophone recorder. It took seven minutes. I called in my man to let him hear them.
I think I can say that phonology is superior to music. There's more variety in it. The financial return is greater, too. I owe my fortune to it.
At all events, with a motodynamophone, even a rather inexperienced phonometrologist can easily note down more sounds that the most skilled musician in the same time, using the same amount of effort. This is how I have been able to write so much.
And so the future lies with philophony.

I have always had it in mind to write a lyric play on the following specific subject:
At that time I was taken up with alchemy. One day I was having a rest, alone in my laboratory. Outside the sky was leaden, livid and sinister - really ghastly!
I was feeling sad without knowing why; almost afraid without knowing the cause. Into my head came the idea of amusing myself by counting on my fingers slowly from 1 to 260,000.
This I did: and very boring it was. I stood up, took hold of a magic nut and gently placed it in a casket of alpaca bone studded with seven diamonds.
Straightaway a stuffed bird took flight; a monkey's skeleton ran off; a sow's skin climbed along the wall. Then night descended, covering up objects, destroying shapes.
But someone is knocking on the far door, the one near the Median talismans, the talismans a Polynesian madman sold me.
What is it? Oh god! Do not forsake thy servant. He is indeed a sinner, but is repentant. Have mercy on him, I beseech Thee.
Now the door opens, opens, opens like an eye; a silent and shapeless being comes nearer, nearer, nearer. Not a drop of perspiration remains on my quaking skin; moreover I am very thirsty, very thirsty.
In the shadows a voice is heard:
- Sir, I think I have second sight.
I do not recognize this voice. It says:
- Sir, it is I, it is only I.
- Who? comes my terrified reply.
- I, your servant. I think I have a second sight. Did you not just place a magic nut gently in a casket of alpaca bone studded with seven diamonds?
Suffocated, I can only reply:
- Yes, my friend. How do you know?
He draws near me, a gliding shadow in the darkness of the night. I feel him trembling. He is probably afraid that I may take a shot at him.
With a sob, like a little child, he murmurs:
- I saw you through the keyhole.

Odd corners of my life
The origins of the Saties probably go back to ancient times. Oh yes... I can't confirm anything on this point - but neither can I unconfirm it.
However, I presume that the family was not part of the nobility (nor even the papacy); that its members were good and humble serfs, and that was once an honour and a pleasure (for the serf's overlord, of course). Oh yes...
I don't know what the Saties did in the Hundred Years War; nor have I any information on their attitude and the part they played in the Thirty Years War (one of our loveliest wars).
Let the memory of my ancient ancestors rest in peace. Oh yes...
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

As for me, I was born in Honfleur (Calvados), in the Pont-l'Evêque district, on 17 May 1866... So that makes me a quinquagenarian, and I might as well be called that as anything else.
Honfleur is a small town watered by the poetic waves of the Seine and - in complicity - the tumultous ones of the Channel. Its inhabitants (honfleurais) are very polite and very agreeable. Oh yes...
I remained in that city until I was twelve (1878) and then moved to Paris.... My childhood and adolescence were undistinguished - nothing happened worth recording in serious writings. So I shall say nothing of them.
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

I'm burning to give you my description here (enumeration of my physical particulars - the ones I can mention decently, that is):... Hair and eyebrowns dark auburn; eyes grey (probably clouded); hair covering forehead; nose long; mouth medium; chin wide; face oval. Height 1 metre 67 centimetres.
The description on this document dates from 1887, the time when I did military service in the 33rd Infantry Regiment at Arras (pas-de-Calais). It would not fit me today.
I'm sorry I can't give you my digital (finger) prints. Oh yes. I don't have them on me, and these special reproductions are not good to look at (they look like Vuillermoz and Laloy combined).
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

Following a rather short adolescence, I became an ordinary young man, tolerable but no more. At that moment in my life I began to think and to write music. Oh yes.
Wretched idea!... very wretched idea!
It certainly was, for I lost no time in developing an unpleasant (original) originality, irrelevant, anti-French, unnatural, etc...
Then life became so impossible for me that I resolved to retire to my estates and pass the rest of my days in an ivory tower - or one of some other (metallic) metal.
That is why I acquired a taste for misanthropy; why I nurtured hypochondria; why I became the most (leaden-like) miserable of men. It distressed people to look at me - even through hall-marked gold eye-glasses. Oh yes.
And all this happened to me because of music. That art has done me more harm that good, really: it has made me quarrel with people of quality, most honourable, more-than-distinguished, terribly genteel people.
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

As a person, I am neither good nor bad. I waver between the two, so to speak. So I have never really done harm to anyone - nor good, come to that.
All the same, I have plenty of enemies - loyal enemies, of course. Why? For the most part, it is because they don't know me - or only know me second-hand, in short, through hearsay (lies worse than death).
Man can never be perfect. I bear no grudge against them: they are the main victims of their ignorance and short-sightedness.... Poor folk!...
So I am sorry for them.
Let us pass on. I shall come back to this subject later.

- from

Pierre Laniau - Erik Satie: Pièces Pour Guitare
Label: ECM
Year: 1982

"I must confess, the idea of adapting Erik Satie's piano compositions for guitar initially did not appeal."
...he said, and then proceeded to make an album of absolutely brilliant interpretations. Not only has Laniau mastered the call-and-response between bass and treble that is so central to Satie's work, but he has immersed himself in it to the extent that he sometimes sounds like two players... this is also one of the most enduring qualities of Fahey's more psychomathematical works, and it comes across in an entirely different, but still psychomathematical way here.

He also nurtures a very essential Satiean quality: an emptiness/spaciousness, which is communicated perhaps more perfectly by the fragile nylon strings of the guitar than the vibrant string-clusters of the pianoforte.

And lastly, Laniau draws forth that rarest of qualities which can be found in Satie's pieces: a music simultaneously intellectual, playful, and soulful.

"Satie was reputed to have been enthralled by the performance of a Romanian folk ensemble who entertained the brimming crowds with their lugubrious, melancholic repertoire and singular instrumental technique. In light of this, especially, it is intriguing to hear the faint spectre of gypsy folk dance in Laniau's interpretations for guitar."

"It has been said that the word gnossienne refers to the antique Knossos and the crane dance that was performed outside the labyrinth where the Minotaur was held captive..."

Just as intriguing, is the suggestion that the title for these six pieces derives from the Greek "gnosis" - knowledge - with inherent leanings towards esoteric religious practice: his "first musical expression born out of Satie's collaboration with Péladan and his Rose et Croix sect."

1. Four Gnossiennes 1-Lent 3:34
2. Four Gnossiennes 2 - Avec etonnement 1:53
3. Four Gnossiennes 3 - Lent 3:00
4. Four Gnossiennes 4 - Lent (sans presser) 3:12
5. Musiques Intimes et Secrètes - Desespoir agreable 0:53
6. 06 Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 2 - Caresse 2:05
7. 07 Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 3 - Songe creux 1:43
8. Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 4 - Fâcheux example 1:09
9. Musiques Intimes et Secrètes 5 - Nostalgie 1:02
10. Je te Veux 4:46
11. Gymnopédie No. 1 3:06
12. Petite Musique de clown triste 2:18
13. La diva de l'empire 2:36
14. Premier prélude du nazaréen 5:20
15. Les pantins Dansent 2:06

this is not a pipe.
mp3 192kbps | w/ cover | 60mb

1 comment:

icastico said...

Thanks for that. Great info...I look forward to hearing the music.