The Gymnopédies

Erik Satie (1866-1925)

French composer and pianist, Erik Satie published the first of his Gymnopédies in Paris starting in 1888. These three piano compositions are short, atmospheric pieces written in 3/4 time with each sharing a common theme and structure. Collectively, the Gymnopédies are regarded as the precursors to modern ambient music – gentle yet somewhat eccentric pieces which, when composed, defied the classical tradition.

The “First Gymnopédie” was published accompanied by a verse from Les Antiques (“The Ancient”) by French poet J.P. Contamine de Latour (1867–1926). French Version
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

English Translation
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