Erik Satie
Gnossienne 2

  1. Structure

  2. The A Section

  3. The B Section

  4. The C Section

  5. Downloading Bay

    My MP3 recording
    Gnossienne 1
    Profile of Erik Satie

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Gnos 2.1 - Structure

Erik Satie wrote Gnossienne 2 also in 1890.
There is no key signature indicated for Gnossienne 2. The piece starts on a G minor chord and ends on E minor, with several modulations to various keys.
There are no bar lines in the music. The underlying pulse of the left hand chords indicate 4/4 time, however all quavers (eighth notes) in the melody are triplets. The time is therefore of a compound nature and would read in 12/8 time, were it not that all compound beats are written as regular crotchets instead of the required dotted crotchets.

Audio 1

Looking at the above, it appears to me that Satie still had the grace notes from Gnossienne 1 as echoes in his mind when he wrote Gnossienne 2.
Now they have grown to full notes in their own right (shown in red). They still function however, like the grace notes, as approach notes to the note immediately behind it.

The left hand too now exhibits this approach idea (shown in purple), shifting from one chord (Gm) to the next (F) over the long sustained G bass note and also from F to Em over the E bass note.

Gnossienne 2 contains three distinct sections, A, B and C which are arranged in an A B C B A format. Assuming that 4 quarter note beats comprise one bar the song is 32 bars long and consists of :

A Section 8 bars Chords : Gm, Em and Do
B Section 6 bars Chords : Do, Em and A
C Section 8 bars Chords : A, F#, F and Dm
B Section 6 bars Chords : Do, Em, A and C
A Section 4 bars Chords : Gm and Em

The A section at the end is only 4 bars long and consists of the first half A section from the beginning of the piece. The play-along track consists of 3 choruses. I suggest you play the melody on the first chorus, then follow up with one or one and a half chorus of improvisation and ending with all or part of the melody once again.

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Gnos 2.2 - The A Section

The A section consists of 8 bars, with its first 4 bars ('A1') repeated once at the very end of the piece.
The chord progression features 2-bar Gm segments alternating first with Em (2 bars), then with Ddim (also 2 bars).

Audio 2

A1 - Bars 1 to 4
Although the Gm chord over the G bass only lasts for 1 beat and is followed by 2 beats of the F major triad, the segment is clearly in G minor. You hear this at once as soon as you play it. The F major chord purely functions to help spell out the G minor mode.

Audio 1

Both the melody line and the two chords over the G bass clearly and unambiguously spell out the G Dorian mode. (If you are not familiar with modes : the G Dorian mode uses the same notes as the F major scale, but the tonic, and therefore focus of the music is centred on G instead of F.)
I therefore suggest you use the G Dorian mode over all Gm sections in this piece.

Audio 3

Bars 3 and 4 are underlain by the E bass note. This is combined with an E minor triad in bar 3, then a 1-beat appearance of the F major triad (shown in red below), before returning to E minor.
These two chords combined (E G B and F A C) clearly spell out the E Phrygian mode (Same notes as the C major scale, but with tonic note E). D is the only note not accounted for, but the D sounds in my view better than the D# in this context.
Use therefore the E Phrygian mode over all Em chords in this piece.

Audio 4

A2 - Bars 5 to 8
In the second half of the A section ('A2') the G minor segment is repeated in bars 5 and 6 exactly as in bars 1 and 2. For improvisation use the G Dorian mode once again over Gmin.

In Bars 7 and 8 the D diminished triad replaces the E minor segment from Bars 3 and 4.

Audio 5

The chords which accompany the D bass notes in bars 7 and 8 are the D diminished triad, with (in bar 8) a short diversion to the E minor triad.
These two chords combined outline an unusual and very interesting scale. For want of a better name I call it the D Locrian sharp 2 sharp 6.

Audio 6

Does this scale look familiar to you ?
Interestingly it consists of the same notes as the scale Satie features in the C section of Gnossienne 1. It is the F melodic minor #4 scale.

F melodic minor #4

D Locrian #2 #6
F G Ab B C D E F

D E F G Ab B C D

Bar 8 is the only place in this piece where this unusual scale occurs. You can use it here or use the more common D scale over Ddim (D Locrian #2) as outlined in the B section below.

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Gnos 2.3 - The B Section

The B section is only 6 bars long.
It consists of alternating bars of Ddim and Emin chords, ending with 2 bars of the A major triad with a sustained A melody note, leading into the C section.

Audio 7

The melody in bars 9 and 11 outlines 6 notes for a D scale over the Ddim chord. I have added an E natural (rather than an Eb) to the scale. This sounds very good and to my ear and mind is in keeping with the overall sound of this Gnossienne.

Audio 8

In Jazz this scale is commonly referred to as the D Locrian sharp 2 (scale or mode).
It uses the same notes as the F melodic minor scale (F G Ab Bb C D E F), but with its tonic shifted to D. In Jazz improvisation it is commonly used over half diminished chords. It of course also fits over the diminished triad (but not the diminished 7th chord !).

I suggest you use the :

  • D Locrian #2 mode over Do

  • E Phrygian mode over Em

  • A major scale over the A chord

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Gnos 2.4 - The C Section

The C section consists of 8 bars.
As in Gnossienne 1, the C section forms the bright (almost aggressive) highlight of the piece.
Its chord progression consists of an A, F# and F major triad sequence (one bar for each chord), repeated once, then ending on 2 bars of the D minor triad.

Audio 9

The melody over the A chord is a curious line which clearly outlines the A Lydian mode featuring the augmented 4th (#4 = D#). The F#, F and D chord underlie long sustained notes.

Audio 10

To reflect Satie's idea it is essential that you improvise over the A major triad here using the A Lydian mode.
You have a choice over the F# and F chords of either playing their respective major scales over these two chords or, in sympathy with the A chord, also use (F# and F) Lydian modes here.

I suggest you use the D Dorian mode over the last 2 bars of D minor, which lead back to the Ddim chord of the following B section.

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Gnos 2.5 - Downloads

Melody p.1 - p.2 Concert key Bb instruments Eb instruments
Notations Lead sheet Scales Scales Demo
Play-along Concert key Bb instruments Eb instruments

For Publishers of Erik Satie's Gnossiennes see the Sheet music section of my Satie profile page.

Copyright © 2005 - 2006Michael Furstner. All rights reserved.