The lack of any feeling of progression that we find in his personal use of harmony is emphasized by his equally personal use of form. By his abstention from the usual forms of development and by his unusual employment of what might be called interrupted and overlapping recapitulations, which cause the piece to fold in on itself, as it were, he completely abolishes the element of rhetorical argument and even succeeds in abolishing as far as is possible our time sense. We do not feel that the emotional significance of a phrase is dependent on its being placed at the beginning or end of any particular section. On Satie’s chessboard a pawn is always a pawn; it does not become a queen through having travelled to the other side of the board.
Satie’s habit of writing his pieces in groups of three was not just a mannerism. It took the place in his art of dramatic development, and was part of his peculiarly sculpturesque views of music. When we pass from the first to the second Gymnopédie or from the second to the third Gnossienne we do not feel that we are passing from one object to another. It is as though we were to move slowly round a piece of sculpture, and examine it from a point of view which, while presenting a different and possibly less interesting silhouette to our eyes, is of equal importance to our appreciation of the work as a plastic whole. It does not matter which way you walk round a statue and it does not matter in which order you play the three Gymnopédies.
from ’ Music Ho! A Study of Music in Decline’, Constant Lambert, 1934