Nouvelles Pièces froides ("New Cold Pieces") consists of three pieces for solo piano: "Sur un mur" (On a Wall), "Sur un arbre" (On a Tree), and "Sur un pont" (On a Bridge). At first glance, this little set of pieces appears to be yet another Satie triptych (Satie was obsessed with the number three and its spiritual implications); indeed, the first two pieces, "Sur un mur" and "Sur un arbre," certainly belong together, as they employ the same melody with different harmonic settings.
As musicologists have noted, these first two pieces are reminiscent of the Scuola Cantorum-inspired music Satie was composing at this time -- they resembled academic exercises in which a given melody is harmonized in a variety of different ways. Both pieces repeat the "given" eight-measure melody three times, with "Sur un mur" using a chordal accompaniment while "Sur un arbre" bathes the melody in gentle arpeggiated figures. However, the third piece, "Sur un pont," does not fit the trinitarian structure; it is different in texture and character from the first two. Its rigorously contrapuntal nature also suggests a degree of academicism, but its very different affect is striking. By the end of this third piece, however, some of Satie's characteristic irreverence makes an appearance in the form of some unexpected harmonic twists and turns.
These pieces were not published in Satie's lifetime, perhaps because they were intended as little more than experiments following his return to formal education and the subsequent revision of his compositional style. They are important, however, because they indicate Satie's awareness of the music of his contemporaries -- the pieces contain harmonies suggestive of Debussy and Fauré -- and also his facility in adopting the musical languages of these contemporary composers.