Notes from the Composer: I See,Satie is a sort of musical prank, which I’ll try to explain. Erik Satie was sometimes called the “father” of a group of early twentieth century French composers knows as Les Six. After World War II, I studied composition at Mills College in California with one of those “Six,” Darius Milhaud. In those days in the early forties, young composers had to make a choice as to the musical direction they would follow. The two forces dominating the musical world were diametrically opposed. On the one hand, the 12-tone school growing out of German romanticism and headed by Arnold Schoenberg, and on the other hand, the continuation and extension of tonality, of which Milhaud and Les Six were a prime force. In class Milhaud often told me about Satie playing in Paris nightclubs, writing songs for popular singers, and how he responded when critics said his music had no form. He countered by writing piano music in the shape of a pear. In the final three bars of this piece the pear shape is alluded to in the piano notation. The melody in the first four bars is twelve tone. The second four bars is in a different tone row. The melody in the third four bars is a different row than either in the preceding eight bars. The harmonization is reminiscent of Satie’s “Gymnopedies.” To me, it is how Satie’s music may have sounded had he decided to become a twelve-tone composer, which of course, is a path he would never have chosen.
(c) Dave Brubeck Music
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