If you know the piece coming is “Gymnopedie No. 1,”then the second that first note hits you have a sense of what’s up ahead. When the track doesn’t actually fulfill the second note of your solo-piano clairvoyance, your brain fills in the blank, and the blanks that follow immediately upon it. You hear “Gymnopedie”even if it isn’t playing.
In fact, in this reworking of the Satie classic, the song is playing, just transformed in two ways. First of all, it is slowed considerably. The roughly six-minute piece is extended to 10 times its original length. Second, this isn’t one “Gymnopedie”but about 60 “Gymnopedies.”It’s the track “Every Recording of Gymnopedie 1”by Brendan Landis, who initially stretched every rendition of the piece he could find to an equal length, yielding a slightly out of sync, phase-shifting rendition, halfway between Steve Reich and Brian Eno.
The initial “Every Recording of Gymnopedie 1”gained quite a following in the past week. When I first wrote about it it had about 2,000 listens on SoundCloud. As of this writing it has just over 50,000 listens. Following up the initial post I wrote a second appreciation, looking at how Satie himself as preordained the Landis reworking, and touched on a precedent by artist Sean Dack, who developed a gallery installation, a la Janet Cardiff, that played individual versions on freestanding speakers.
This new, half-hour piece by Landis has a stronger similarity to the Dack than did his earlier piece, because the Dack likewise employed extensive time-stretching. The strings of the piano take on gargantuan capacity, like one of Ellen Fullman’s long-stringed instruments. Being inside this piece — “being inside”inside describes the consumption process much more closely than does, say, “listening”— reveals the off-sync qualities of the original in a manner like shards being shed in rapturous slow motion.