Gnossienne No. 1 (string quartet)


Title; Gnossienne No. 1

Composer: Erik Satie, arr. David Gable

Instrumentation: Violin 1; Violin 2; Viola; Cello

Printout: 8 pages

Note: “Gnossienne” is a word created by Satie and has no literal meaning. All of Satie’s Gnossiennes share certain traits: they are written without time signatures, they are exotic and mysterious in mood, they have a rhythmic ostinato in the bass and inner voices, and they include cryptic indications on how they are to be played. The lack of meter, while suitable for a solo instrument, are problematic for an ensemble, so time signatures derived from the ostinato patterns have been used here.

Scholars differ on the meaning of many of Satie’s indications. Some possible interpretations for those in this Gnossienne are below:

Très luisant (very shining) – possibly indicating a bright timbre or a lightness of dynamic (the latter being contrary to the marking of forte, but this is Satie!)

Questionnez (questioning) – perhaps indicating hesitating rubato

Du bout de la pensée (in deep thought) – a reflective mood, perhaps light and feathery (again a contradiction to the forte)

Postulez en vous-même (apply self) – possibly intended to sound halting or labored, notes being delayed, etc.

Pas a pas (step by step) – pretty obviously indicating steady tempo with no rubato

Sur la langue (on the tongue or on the tip of the tongue) – presumably hesitating again, as if trying to come up with the right word (or note)

Also available for string quartet: Gymnopédie No. 1; Gymnopédie No. 2Gymnopédie No. 3 ; Gnossienne No. 2; Gnossienne No. 3


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