About 20 years ago I wrote Music for Erik Satie #1 (click for download links). The piece exists in an odd place. It is unique for me1 in that it has something that’s almost a little melodic, a near hint of harmony, and very clear rhythmic ideas. And all of this was done on purpose and consciously composed by me.
In the original version the melody was less bel canto but still discernible as a melody complete with repetition and phrasing. I’ve softened the angular bits out but have retained the overall feel. As a composer I’ve never really cared about melody, harmony, and rhythm—all of which I think are terribly overrated and contribute to banality. But for some reason in this piece, where I’ve imitated various bits from Satie’s oeuvre, I felt compelled to make use of these techniques.
Recently I came across some quotes from Cage talking about similar compromises he made when composing his work Cheap Imitation which was, interestingly, taken from Satie’s music.2 Is it Satie? Or is it Cage and his influence on me? Interesting but even more interesting is that I don’t really care.
Perhaps in good postmodernist fashion I view all the musical ideas that have come before me as tools for composition. While I prefer some (Cagean experimentalism) to others, there’s no longer any kind of aesthetic constraint keeping me in line with a regular aesthetic approach. Of course modernists were under no actual constraints either but it’s easy to imagine that given the constant “battles” they were taking part in to redefine our fundamental concepts of music, that they felt a stronger pull to remain consistent. We postmodernists realize that there are no fundamental concepts about music left to redefine so we are, perhaps, liberated. Cage felt that modernism was liberating. Do we need to be liberated from modernism? Does that question even make sense?
In any case, this was a fun piece to write and to revisit all these years later. I think there are some interesting ideas. There’s certainly a lot of Satie in it which can’t be a bad thing.