Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Those Who Keep it Brief

To divert my brain at my job yesterday and to fill it with something interesting, I took a pause from work and went, as I'll do from time to time, to Wikipedia.  I decided to read about one of my favorite composers, Erik Satie (1866-1925). The Frenchman, of course, is famous for his musical "miniatures", short compositions such as the three Gymnopedies for solo piano, and the six Gnossienes, also for piano.  Brief as each of these pieces are, between one and four minutes long, I never get tired of listening to them.  Over the years, I've listened to them, as well as other Satie pieces, countless times.  For all their brevity, they have a quality that never ceases to beguile me.  They seem so simple as music, but in actuality, they're complex. They somehow sound playful and melancholy at the same time.  They're rich, beautiful, slippery, mysterious. They're not quite like any other music that's ever been written. This, to me, really is art of the highest sort - endlessly fascinating work done with maximum economy. 

Satie had his own views on the matter of size and duration in art and expressed them well (words that I think apply to writing as much as they do to music and which, in writing, I do my best to put into practice). To quote how Wikipedia puts it: "Generally [Satie] would say that he did not think it permitted that a composer take more time from his public than strictly necessary".

Now I doubt Satie, an artistic innovator and experimenter if ever there was one, meant there should be literal prohibitions on how people produce their art, but as a general principle to follow, when it comes to taking time from the public (your listeners, your readers, whoever) he was dead right.

But I think I've already gone too long and so... 

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