serious immobilities

serious immobilities

” it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities”….from the score of Erik Satie’s ” Vexations”, written in 1893, performed first by a collection of musicians in 1963.

So Charlie, ( a former student ) contacted me and asked if I was interested in performing this, I said ” yes”, with some hesitation. While I love Satie’s work, I am not a classical pianist. His influence is significant with me. I have had the great fortune to have a weekly piano gig at a local cafe for the past 4 years, and my piano playing is becoming…. more comfortable for me.
Still, I did fail my piano proficiency test about 10 years ago… due to nerves, and difficulty sight-reading. Improvising, inventing my own music is natural to me. I read jazz charts better than before. I have a solid repertoire of ” ear standards” that I have accessed. I love connecting musical friends together in any sized ensembles. But the classical piano page tends to bring terror into my veins.
Last fall, I was diagnosed with ADD: no surprise to my friends and family. I was scared about taking medication. Would I be able to still improvise? Indeed, the first batch slowed me down, too much. The dosage I have now is manageable, indeed I am able to still invent, and complete most of my sentences somewhat connected to the thoughts preceding them.
This may be an important consideration for my trepidation and ” vexations” about reading music. Luckily, I have had a wide open space in my life to take this piece on.
I have been practicing this work for several weeks, and it is starting to take shape in my fingers. I have been hearing it in my mind’s ear, and it finally has stopped bothering me.
Today, I am sore from intense cleaning. The sun is soft, I would love to go fish for trout. But, I have decided to devote the day, to immobility, listening to as much Erik Satie as I can, with spaces in between. I started today with the first three Sarabandes, written in 1887. These early works have a stunning quality, block chords, interspersed with melodic passages. Not virtuosic in a “piano jock sense”, no dizzying runs, bebop tempos: not clever young prodigal winners of the Chopin Society competitions, nor Oscar Peterson/ Bud Powell. But, it is a piece I am coming back to , again and again for meaning. This recording is my Ulrich Gumpert, from a 3 disc set produced by Jean Rochard in 1985, on the nato label.
Next, I will take a bath to ease my sore muscles, chant some more, practice Vexations, go into my garden, then sit in the green chair to listen intently to the gnossiennes. I intend to hear all the Satie I can in the next few days- revisit what I know, and start into the forest of what I don’t know. yet.


  1. hi todd, go for it. you can do it when your mind hears the music and guides your hands. i have begun work on a composition, the first such effort in years and that process brings up my fears . nmrk. bobo


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