Wednesday, August 20, 2008

erik satie: quatre gnossiennes pour guitare

erik satie, 1866 - 1925.
photography unknown*, design by ib.

I must confess, the idea of adapting Erik Satie's piano compositions
for guitar initially did not appeal. His six Gnossiennes - inspired, it is said, by the great excavations on Knossos, Crete - composed between 1889 - 1897. The World Fair of 1889, unveiled in Paris, must have had
a considerable impact also.

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."

design by ib, because I couldn't locate the original jacket.

The following adaptations for guitar can be found in their original totality on Ubu Web. Performed by Pierre Laniau from his "Pièces pour Guitare" released on EMI Classics in 1982.

PIERRE LANIAU: QUATRE GNOSSIENNES #1 (LENT) from "Pièces pour Guitare" LP (EMI Classics) 1982 (France)

PIERRE LANIAU: QUATRE GNOSSIENNES #2 (AVEC ETONNEMENT) from "Pièces pour Guitare" LP (EMI Classics) 1982 (France)

PIERRE LANIAU: QUATRE GNOSSIENNES #3 (LENT) from "Pièces pour Guitare" LP (EMI Classics) 1982 (France)

PIERRE LANIAU: QUATRE GNOSSIENNES #1 (LENT: SANS PRESSER) from "Pièces pour Guitare" LP (EMI Classics) 1982 (France)

* Should the photographer chance upon this post, let me know - in comment or by e-mail - and I will gladly instate credit.


Your driver said...

Very nice designs.

ib said...

I have a fetish for putting together 'sleeves' for MP3's, usually if the original is too hard to find or just plain naff.

In Satie's case, since I have a whole disparate bunch of musicians and takes on his stuff, it seemed fitting to break it down into the key pieces in the main.

The one for "Gnosssiennes" is part of a series where I used the same photographer throughout, but since it was originally never intended for public consumption I neglected to record the person responsible. A big regret. It's largely their own work which makes the series thematically arresting.

The one on the guitarist, Laniau is slightly different. I set out to find an image of the instrument under construction since it seemed key to the manner in which the six pieces were inspired and worked up. They work really well as guitar adaptations, I think, once you accept the role those Romany folk musicians had in sowing the seeds for Satie's original translations into piano.