Erik Satie's Gnossiennes

by Jake Schepps

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Round Window Radio April 2017
Trois Gnossienne
By Erik Satie

I have fallen head over heels in love with Erik Satie’s “Trois Gnossiennes,” and excited to post this on Round Window Radio. While the versions of #2 and #3 were released in 2016, I have taken this opportunity to release them as a suite. Each was recorded by a different band, with different approaches to the form, and different ideas for soloing. With #1, I approached it more as a choro tune, even though the melody was not very Brazilian. The idea that there can be little going on in a melody with lots of surprising harmonic turns was the starting point. I spent several days in my practice space singing this melody and trying dozens of chord changes (luckily for you all none of that was captured on tape). Then the Round Window house band brought this to life. We have been playing the suite live and it really comes to life in new ways each performance.

Each of the three pieces has a different improvised structure. With #1, we play the tune down, stopping in the middle to take solos on the chords. I had initially thought of a 4-bar structure for the solos, then Enion suggested we play 6, which makes it a bit more challenging as a soloist, yet more importantly ties each improvised statements more together with the next. On #2, we play the form almost to the end, then go back to the beginning and take solos on each section. Then on #3 we play the piece all the way to the end, and go back part way, repeat solos over a series of chord changes, and then play it out from there. It is all outlined in the accompanying charts.

According to Wikipedia, the Gnossiennes No. 1-3 were first published in 1893, while Nos. 4-7 published in 1968, long after his death, and not labeled “Gnossiennes” by Satie. While interesting to hear those other pieces, and they are lovely, I find them incongruent with these first three.

Enjoy this month’s release, and please let your friends and relations know about Round Window Radio. The best way for this to succeed is by word of mouth. It is only $3 a month, less than most cappuccinos.

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released March 31, 2017

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Jake Schepps Boulder, Colorado

Jake Schepps has made a name for himself as a banjo renaissance man, an artist with not only an adroit touch on his instrument but an intrepid, imaginative vision for contemporary stringband music. Based in Boulder, Colorado, he leads the Jake Schepps Quintet, playing longform classical works written for string band, music by Bela Bartok, and of course some good ol' bluegrass. ... more

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