Diary of a Song: Gymnopédie No. 1

This is the seventh of a series of blog posts entitled “Diary of a Song“, where I share the stories behind each of the songs from my new album “Illumination“.

At the end of each post, I also include a link to buy the sheet music, and the MP3 download.

Gymnopédie No. 1

(From the artwork in the CD booklet)Illumination and Gymnopedie 4

Gymnopédie No. 1 is Track #4 on my new album, “Illumination”.

Gymnopédie No. 1 is the first of three songs (all named Gymnopédie) composed by French composer Erik Satie, who lived from 1866 – 1925 in Paris, France. He was sort of a revolutionary in his time  – as he was breaking molds from the Classical form of music and taking a minimalist and repetitive approach.

This song has been a favorite of mine for a very long time, and in my opinion is one of the “must-learns” on any pianist’s reportorial list.  It is such a hauntingly beautiful, yet simple song.

When I was a little girl I was a huge fan of the movie The Black Stallion.  Not only did I love the movie but I also read the books, and often times found myself carried away into a dreamland of Arabia with horses races, romance, and suspense.  I loved the scene on the beach when Alex (the boy stranded on the island with the wild stallion) finally befriends the horse and the horse allows him to ride him.  The music in this scene, at sunset, carries a very strong resemblence to Gymnopédie No. 1, and perhaps that is why I have always loved this piece – because it reminded me so much of my favorite movie as a kid.

You will see here in this video -if you skip to about 4:40 you will hear the music I talk of.  There is something I really long for in this scene – perhaps it’s the isolation, the beach, being one with nature and no distractions.  Whatever it is, it calls to me.

As this song is such a peaceful song to me with meaning, I really wanted to include it on my album.

Ignoring the dynamics that the editor from Schirmer’s had included in my copy of this song, I recorded this piece how I personally felt it.  I added much more dynamic range to it, including some FF’s which are not in the original. I also took the 2nd half of the song and added more notes, making it more complex and driven.

And finally, I added orchestration to it. Which, funny enough, I thought was so original in – but turns out Claude Debussy also orchestrated Satie’s Gymnopedie’s as well (except for full symphony, whereas mine still has the piano as the lead).  I personally find my version much more dynamic and emotional.

Here is Claude Debussy’s version:

I can’t tell you what great care I took in recording this piece for my album. I was so OCD about it – every detail had to be perfect from the way I played the piano, the expression and dynamics, to every last note that the violins lifted off of the strings.

Here is a clip from the finished song, starting about half way through:

I’m happy to let you know that the sheet music is now available for this song, which you can find below…


You can purchase the sheet music (as well as other songs from Illumination) from my web store HERE.

You can download the MP3 of this song HERE.

BUY AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF ILLUMINATION directly from Jennifer while copies are still in stock:  http://jenniferthomasmusic.com/store/illumination-audio-cd

NEXT SONG UP:  “New Life”


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