‘Slanting and shadow-cutting a flickering eddy, Trickled in gusts of gold to the shiny flagstone, Where the atoms of amber in the fire mirroring themselves, Mingled their sarabande to the gymnopaedia’
Born in Honfleur, Normandy in May of 1866, Eric Alfred Leslie Satie was to become a prominent figure in the 20th Century Parisian Avant-Garde movement. He was a colourful and vibrant eccentric; a creature very much after our own heart interested in bridging the gap, or perceived antagonism between the so-called high-art and popular forms of music of the time. In response to a publicly placed question as to his occupation, Satie is reputed to have labelled himself a ‘gymnopedist’. Deriving from Gymnopedia, an ancient Greek festival whereby young Spartan warriors would strip off, oil themselves up and prance around. Each to their own, but it is important to mention for it is a suite of piano pieces called the Gymnopedies that he is best known and the first of which that we have devoted the unique mix Jazzopedie to.
Satie’s piano technique was never particularly well regarded by the Parisian musical ‘elite’ of the illustrious and revered Paris Conservatoire who described Satie as an ‘untalented’ and ‘worthless’ performer. Slightly harsh, we feel, but it is perhaps this criticism that spurred Satie to attempt to reconcile the divide that exists between the snobbery of academic elitism and, no doubt, the inverted snobbery from proponents of popular music. Whether this was the intention or not, he had at least one very powerful ally in the upper echelons of the music world in his fellow countryman and composer Claude Debussy. In February of 1897 Debussy turned his hand to the orchestration of the first and third movements from the Gymnopedie suite in a collaboration that undoubtedly helped place this piece in the annals of our musical heritage.