May 04, 2004

Wedding Music...

I regularly visit mfiles in search of new composers and genres. On one occasion, I was listening to the Gymnopedies 1 in the Erik Satie section, when my wife-to-be comes in, and mentions that this is a piece that she's always liked. I am finishing up the music selection for our wedding on May 29th, and it will be part of wedding procession.

I recently purchased Strange Mr. Satie, which is slightly different than I pictured. It looks like a children's book, but I would not read it to my children, especially the part where it describes Erik throwing Suzanne Valadon out the window after an argument. As Erik Satie's style is not as structured as other composers (such as Frederic Chopin), it was not generally liked by people of his time, and it is for this reason, that he felt so welcome at "Le Chat Noir" cafe, where he played the Gymnopedies. The crowd was pleased to hear his different sound, or as "Strange Mr. Satie" describes, "No one could tell as they heard this software music if it was happy or sad, this music like messages from a child's dream world."

Erik Satie is also interesting in the way that he titles and describes his music, such as the infamous "Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear" (there are seven pieces in total) or "Sketches and Temptations of a Fat Man Made of Wood." Instead of the instructions to his pieces being something usual, viz. "Slowly" or "Fast", Erik chose words such as "From the end of the eyes" or "I want a hat of solid mahogany."

As a procession piece, though, a Gymnopedes is short, and so we will require an additional piece. As many are aware, my favourite composer is, of course, Frederic Chopin, but I cannot see the mixing of Chopin's classic form with Satie's more modern, free-flowing style. One Erik Satie CD we have recently purchased has the "Petite Overture a Danser" is an extremely beautiful piece, and this seems to dovetail better with the Gymnopedes 1.

Finding a meaningful Chopin piece for the wedding is difficult, as the Chopin pieces I love the most have a sad sound throughout them. For example, Prelude Number 4 from Opus 28 is one of the first Chopin pieces I played, but it sounds, to me, like a person who does not know where they are going or what to do wandering through town. Prelude 9 and Prelude 20 from Opus 24 are also very nice, however, I hear something sad throughout them.

A beautiful piece, actually, is Prelude 15 from Opus 24, which is commonly referred to as the Raindrop Prelude. The story surrounding this comes from when Georges Sand and Frederic Chopin first met, they went on a trip to Majorca. To shorten the story a bit, they stayed in a castle during the rainy season, which was wet and cold. One night, Georges went out for some reason, and she wrote that upon return, she found Chopin in a trance and hallucinating, which is the second documented time of hallucinations. She goes on to say that it was so rainy, that even his music had sounds of rain. It is assumed that she is referring to Prelude 15, which the piece has a monotonically repeating A-flat and G-sharp throughout the piece. With a story like this, it is hard to choose this for such a joyous occasion.

Created by the Polish composer Edward Wolfe and popularized by Frederic Chopin, the Nocturnes are always very pretty. Although Erik Satie has some, Chopin's are much more structured, and so perhaps I will pick one of Chopin's for the signing music. Or perhaps Chopin's Barcolle of Opus 60 or Berceuse of Opus 57, both of which I believe were composed at Sand's summer home in Nohant.

Speaking of Nocturnes, Erik Satie has a couple, but are not as structured as Frederic Chopin's. I am not certain the the genre is correct, but this can be the similar trick that Chopin used on some of his music, according to Chopin at the Boundaries: Sex, History, and Musical Genre, by Jeffrey Kallberg. He describes the genre as a contract between the Composer and the Listener. For example, a waltz defines a particular musical form in 3/4 time with the accent on the first beat. A waltz that does not follow this form is, therefore, not a waltz, and may sound strange to some listeners.

Breaking expectations can be interesting. As is mentioned by our Justice of the Peace, people attending a traditional Catholic wedding, for example, may not really pay attention to what is going on in great detail, because each wedding has the same form and is familiar to them. A non-traditional wedding (such as ours) forces people to pay attention, because there is nothing familiar. Chopin is known to have done this on a few occasions, where the working title for a piece and the published title are considerable different genres, but the music composition is very similar.

And in closing for the final piece, we are not thinking classical, but we are still not sure what we will pick. Time will tell, I suppose.

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