About the work
Olympic Frieze is conceived like an Ancient Greek frieze around the entablature of a temple: players should be placed along the walls of the performance space at regular intervals, like figures in a bas-relief. Like visitors to a temple or museum, the audience should be free to wander through the space and out again as desired, and there should be no audible starting or stopping point – ideally the music should be playing before the first audience member enters and continue after the last audience member leaves. Thus the piece functions as part of the decoration of the room, and might be considered a descendant of Satie’s musique d’ameublement; the differencebeing that Olympic Frieze is not intended as background music but to draw the listener’s attention. It is also fundamentally audio-visual in nature.
The piece explores the fundamental pleasure and beauty of physical exercise that underlie both ancient and modern manifestations of the Olympic games (as well as the Spartan gymnopaedia evoked in Satie’s piano pieces). The music consists of three elements: Exercises, Actions and Disciplines. There are 84 short, repeated Exercise motifs analogous to simple movements of the body, or stretching exercises, in performing which the players adopt stylised (musical) poses akin to those of Greek art. In between Exercises the players perform a number of silent physical Actions devised by themselves. Once stretched and loose each player is ready to attempt his or her own personal Discipline, chosen from a list of 9 possibilities (running, jumping, javelin and trampoline).