ERIK SATIE’S SOCRATE
and JOHN CAGE’S CHEAP IMITATION
Friday, November 13, 2015.
Notes doors at 7pm, sound at 7:30pm.
presented by Six Families
This month’s Notes will take place at Fresh Oysters Performance Research.
Tara Loeper of Six Families says,
Six Families is proud to present our imaginative reorchestration of Erik Satie’s “symphonic drama” Socrate (1919) as part of our 2015 season. Using electric keyboards and a style- and idiom-bending cast of vocalists to realize Satie’s full original score, we invite listeners to join us in exploring the sonic and metaphysical potential of this classic of the 20th century repertoire. In so doing, we hope to illuminate audiences to the depth and power of Satie’s output “beyond the Gymnopédies.”
Our version of Socrate gleefully takes the materials of the piece along a very particular line of aesthetic inquiry. It would be unfortunate for this to be taken as any kind of implied critique. Socrate does not need any “update”. Rather, the performance history of the piece, which has been presented by male and/or female voices, in solo or ensemble formats, with solo piano and orchestral versions of the accompaniment, sets a precedent for exploration. We simply seek a new shade of the work’s famous “whiteness,” new voices for its ancient texts. Of course, this “newness” is tautology, as each performance brings itself newborn.
We are equally proud to facilitate investigation and discussion of John Cage’s Cheap Imitation for solo piano (1969). Cage wrote this work, like many others, for the Merce Cunningham dance company. Cunningham had originally planned to choreograph directly to Satie’s Socrate, which Cage had arranged for two pianos. After Satie’s publisher refused permission for the performance, Cage decided to create an original piece of music using Satie’s phrases and formal structures, so that the choreography could remain unchanged. Though much of Cheap Imitation’s pitch material was determined by chance operations, its use of Socrate as a palimpsest allows the relationship between the works to be readily audible.
Cheap Imitation is a heartfelt homage to its predecessor Socrate, made with deep admiration and love. This makes it a powerful incisive tool for the listener. By presenting these pieces in tandem, we offer the gift of a lineage of great teachers, the symbiosis of whose thinking may reach out across time to nurture our own. We offer the meditative rigor of Cage, the mesmeric clarity of Satie, and the enigmatic wisdom of Socrates himself. We invite you to share with us in this rich philosophic beauty.