Saturday, 27 August 2011

White Sands and a Lonely Shore

I have always been fond of Erik Satie’s piano pieces and usually dismissive of those who attempt to reinterpret them, bereft as the authors invariably were of the prescient passion that provoked him to splash ink across manuscripts, many of which would only be found by disinterested strangers clearing out his lodgings post mortem. Musical gems, well chewed, reduced to bedding for the rats living behind his piano.

Satie drank himself to death in 1925 having described the loss of the only person he loved as leaving him with "nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness".

Attempting to improve on a Satie original is rather like trying to rewrite Romeo and Juliet or scrubbing a delicate creation by Lalique with window polish.

But I now stand back from the breach, the magazine of the blunt weapon of self righteous indignation I sometimes weild uncharged, offering you instead a truly worthy reinterpretation of Satie’s piece for piano, Gnossienne, performed on clarinet accompanied by strings.

This video, sadly, only provides the very briefest glimpse of Danish born Lone Madsen’s debut album, 'White Sands', but considering that my girlfreind is, as I write, watching Antonio Banderas singing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of ‘Evita’, it is, played on my laptop and through my headphones, not just a welcome but an evocative alternative.

As a child, my breath was taken away hearing this piece on piano. Now, hearing it on woodwind, well, the wind has been taken out of my sails somewhat. Satie's broken heart willed both his creativity and his ultimate demise, and Miss Madsen has captured every nuance of his lonely torment in her haunting rendition.

This is Satie's original piano version, not bad for a man with a broken heart and a fatal gutful of whisky. Or perhaps they were merely fuel for creativity and tragic self immolation on the lonely sands of his wasting soul.


  1. I really like this, thanks for the recommendation. I'm a pianist myself so I prefer that version but the first is nice. It sounds like teardrop by something massive attack...well just the beat.


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