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Work

Erik Satie

Erik Satie Composer

Sonneries de la Rose + Croix

Performances: 8
Tracks: 22
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Musicology:
  • Sonneries de la Rose + Croix
    Year: 1892
    Genre: Other Keyboard
    Pr. Instrument: Piano
    • 1.Air de l'Ordre
    • 2.Air du Grand Maître
    • 3.Air du Grand Prieur
These three piano pieces are interesting, if for no other reason because they were originally printed in red. The three Sonneries, "Air de l'ordre," "Air du grand maitre," and "Air du grand prieur," are all fanfares, intended to be used at meetings of the Rosicrucian brotherhood. The Rosicrucians, under the leadership of the novelist and mystic Joseph-Aime Peladan, were a sect of aesthetes whose artistic aims included the "ruin of realism," and the promotion of idealism. Satie was, for several years, a member of the brotherhood, essentially its court composer as it were. He produced a number of works under the influence of Peladan and his brotherhood, but later distanced himself from the bizarre and eccentric Peladan and his followers.

Sonneries de la Rose+Croix, like much of Satie's music, features little or no true development. Instead, as Satie scholar Alan Gillmor notes, Satie alters texture and dynamic rather than motives or themes in order to achieve variety. Typically Satiean harmonic structures abound in this work as well, in particular, chains of unresolved triads. Perhaps the most important aspect of this piece, however, is its mathematical proportions, the details of which were first outlined by Gillmor. Gillmor describes Satie's use of numerical symbolism, noting that he was probably influenced in this direction by his friend and contemporary Claude Debussy. In the Sonneries, Satie employs the Golden Section, a particular mathematical ratio dating back to Pythagoras and popularized by French Symbolists in the later decades of the nineteenth century. Satie's use of the Golden Section, or the "divine number," resulted in what Gillmor calls the work's "subtle proportional balance." The Golden Section dictates the proportions of two of these pieces, such that the number of beats in each piece may be divided into two parts, in an approximate ratio of 3:2.

Ultimately, though Gillmor suggests that finding the Golden Section in these pieces may be mere coincidence, it is also likely that Satie knew exactly what he was doing, taking his cue from Debussy, who had a strong interest in numerological symbolism. Satie also would have been attracted to the use of the Golden Section as a means of structuring music in a nontraditional way, as well as to its connection to the ancient world.

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