I sat at the piano a few minutes ago, as I do too infrequently, teasing and hammering the keys into giving up some sort of acceptable sound. I drifted through a few pieces I commonly abuse like Beethoven’s 7th/2nd, Linus and Lucy, a six-note blues riff, and Erik Satie’s Gnossienne #2.
A memory suddenly came back to me. I first heard the Satie in April 1986. It was my first trip to Europe, and my first visit with Patrick and Stephanie in Spain. They were performing at Es Moli, as they had done for several years, for a few pesetas and a free meal. I was invited to come along and “turn the pages” for Patrick at the piano.
When he pulled out the Gnossienne, he said he’d turn his own pages for this one–there were no bars to define the measures, though I learned later it’s in 4/4 time.
I heard it and fell in love with it–the lilting minor chord structure appealed to my ears. He told me, “You can play this. It’s not that hard.”
When I returned to California that May, I sought out the sheet music and slowly, painfully, figured it out, though Gnossiennes #1 and #3 remain beyond my ability.
This is one of the very few pieces I can play by reading the notes on the page.
The story has an epilogue.
When Donna and I were married, this music was part of the ceremony. I composed her wedding march, but prior to her arrival, it was Satie’s Gnossienne #2 that welcomed me and my best man Dean to the front of the room. Patrick and Stephanie were both in attendance, right there in the front row.
The epilogue has an epilogue too.
I am crummy at reading key signatures. I thought the B flat was a major chord, but Patrick said no, it’s B flat minor. While standing there waiting for Donna and her group, when the piano player played the Satie piece, Patrick smiled and pointed at the instrument when the musician played the chord: a B flat minor.
Now it’s a bit after midnight and a triple memory has struck with the chimes of the clock on the mantle: Patrick and Stephanie at Es Moli in 1986, and in California in 2000 at my wedding, and my marriage to Donna, which in balance was far more good than bad.
I had best go to sleep before more reminders surface and get me more choked up.