The Fourth Gymnopedie

Photograph by Jose Padua
I just realized that when you play
Reinbert de Leeuw’s performances
of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies
numbers 2 and 3 at the same time
you get a fourth Gymnopedie
that sounds like the sort of thing
Satie might have composed
had he lived into the 1940s.
The music is still incredibly slow,
would probably put a lot of people
other than me to sleep,
and could never be used to sell anything,
which only adds to its beauty.
I remember in the 1980s going to bars
where there’d be live music upstairs
and hearing just slow bass notes
drifting to us drinkers downstairs,
a sound that made me think
of the slow sailing of boats
across vast expanses of ocean.
I drank gin and tonics then,
and the composition of bitter and sour flavors
would lift me like a fast arpeggio
played so lightly the musician’s fingertips
must feel nothing but thin air or negative space.
Now the sounds I hear aren’t
as loud as they used to be;
I don’t feel them in my chest
or on top of the steady running
of my pounding heartbeat.
The skin of my fingers
is weathered like old wood
in the late winter’s cold,
and my brittling bones ache from
the misdirection of my fingers
typing in spaces too tight to breathe in.
But like a traveler through space
I am grateful for the speed of light
and the grace of a wandering that subsists
without politics or purpose—
that delicate balance of sound and shadow
that moves me through the unmarked breaches
that exist among all living things.

-Jose Padua

Photograph by Jose Padua


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