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I'm trying to understand why Erik Satie put chords impossible to play with the right hand up in the treble clef. Why not put these chords in the bass clef so that it is obvious that they are played with the left hand?

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This is one of many unconventional yet fascinating aspects of this composer, consider "his first three gnossiennes... without time signatures and bar lines (often referred to as "absolute time") and traditional tempo markings." –  filzilla Mar 21 at 23:07
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It would also be helpful to name the piece, and the measure (if there is one) you are referring to as this would eliminate guess work and possible confusion by those who wish to answer your good question. –  filzilla Mar 21 at 23:10
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You can't spell "satire" without "satie". Among other things, he was a proponent of Dadaism and put a lot of silly, dry humor into his pieces, among other treasures. –  jjmusicnotes Mar 22 at 1:06
    
For a good example of a place where there's a great deal of hand crossing, see the beginning of Brahms's G Minor Rhapsody, Op. 79 No. 2. You will see that there are melody notes that need to be taken with the left hand crossing over. These would be very difficult to write in the bass clef. –  BobRodes Mar 24 at 13:18

2 Answers 2

There is no fixed association of the left hand with the bass clef. Plenty of non-eccentric composers like Mozart and Beethoven wrote whole passages where the left hand is playing high enough to be easiest written in treble clef. Sometimes the right hand dives over the left to play low bass notes, and is written in the bass clef.

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Non-excentric composers like Mozart. I remember some menuet where the only way to play a particular note was to use one's nose. I remember because I played that thing on chromatic button accordion (where it was sort of playable) and asked my teacher what the idea on the piano would have been. –  User8773 Mar 22 at 19:13

Advanced pianists don't see the bass clef as meaning left hand and the treble as meaning right, simply because avoiding ledger lines is more important. If the left hand is playing many notes above treble F or thereabouts in a passage (the right hand is playing higher stuff along with it), the lower clef will switch to treble for a while. Furthermore, there are plenty of cases where stuff in the upper clef gets played with the left hand, and vice versa.

The overriding rule is to use the hand which gets the job done, period.

Now, Satie is kind of unique as a composer, probably the only composer that was also a musical humorist. To get some idea of Satie's attitude towards music, have a look at this:

Joyce, Satie, Duchamp

Satie (hear no evil) is in the middle. The other people in the picture are James Joyce (speak no evil) and Marcel Duchamp (see no evil). One has the feeling that this was Satie's idea.

Satie constantly satirized the self-important musical conventions of Romantic music. For a fine example, see Embryons desséchés - "Dried Embryos". The last ridiculous cadenza is notated "obligatory cadenza--by the author."

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