Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedia Number One”
This article presents the classical melody “Gymnopedia Number One” by Erik Satie.
The name gymnopedia is that of an ancient Greek festival. Since Satie was French, the French pronunciation is zheem-no-ped-ee(with no real stress on any syllable).
The Gymnopedia Suite was published in Paris in 1888. Erik Satie was a romantic style piano composer.
“Gymnopedia Number One” is a gentle yet unconventional piece that defied the classical tradition. For instance, the first few bars consist of an alternating progression of two major seventh chords: the first on the subdominant (G), and the second on the tonic (D). Harmony of this kind was very mysterious in the late 19th century.
Claude Debussy, a friend of Erik Satie, orchestrated this piece, and to this day both versions, solo piano and orchestrated, have kept this one of Satie’s most famous and well-liked works.
I have arranged this piece for five-octave hammer dulcimer. If yours has a smaller range, then play the lowest notes an octave or two higher.
Play the piece slowly so that the wonderful character of the hammered dulcimer’s sustain comes through to give a strong, melancholy effect. The deliberate, mild dissonances contrasted against the pleasing harmonies need to be played slowly to give the maximum effect. The contrast between a slow, sensitive piece like this and the more common dulcimer tune with stylistic fireworks will bring real depth to your repertoire.