Guitarists Discover Timelessness of Erik Satie

Erik Satie (300) i i

Erik Satie's music was a precursor to minimalism and the Theatre of the Absurd. Hulton Archives / Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Hulton Archives / Getty Images
Erik Satie (300)

Erik Satie's music was a precursor to minimalism and the Theatre of the Absurd.

Hulton Archives / Getty Images

The spare, haunting melodies of composer and pianist Erik Satie have inspired a wide range of musicians, from his contemporary Claude Debussy to The Velvet Underground's John Cale. Guitarists Jonathan Stone and Adrian Bond come from different backgrounds — Stone from bossa nova and Bond from ambient music — but find a common interest in the composer's work.

"His music is still relevant, because it was unique in its time and it was a departure at its time," Stone says. "In a way, to me, Satie creates a timelessness in much of his music. It's just as fresh now as it was a hundred years ago."

When Stone introduced Bond to Satie's work in the late '70s, Bond found an immediate connection to the music. Bond comes from the ambient and avant-garde music community and quickly recognized Satie in just about every musician he'd come to appreciate.

Stone says that Satie's music achieves its effects in spite of — or maybe because of — his lack of technical ability. As an anti-authoritarian, Satie constantly found ways to break the rules of composition, including the use of the flat-fifth, an atonal chord.

Most music includes notes and instructions on the performance of a piece, but Satie took things one step further: He'd write very personal notes and give advice on the state of being for the performer. For example, "Don't be proud" or "Think like a pear." The absurdist phrases and asides became famous, and in this interview, the duo has host Andrea Seabrook perform "Yachting" on the spot.

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