The Trois Sarabandes for piano number among Satie's best known "trinitarian" piano works, including the Trois Gymnopedies, and the Trois Gnossiennes. In 1916 Satie's good friend Roland-Manuel described the Sarabandes thus: "these Sarabandes mark a date in the evolution of our music: here are three short pieces of an unprecedented harmonic technique, born of an entirely new aesthetic, which create a unique atmosphere, a sonorous magic of complete originality." Certainly this is true of much of Satie's early music, but especially the Sarabandes. These three pieces introduced a number of Satie techniques that would typify his early style, including the use of modes, and unresolved dissonances.
It has been suggested that the Sarabandes were directly influenced by Gustav Chabrier's opera Le Roi malgre lui, which Satie heard for the first time mere months before the appearance of the Sarabandes. Satie was no doubt taken by Chabrier's liberal use of seventh and ninth chords; however, as musicologist Alan Gillmor has noted, while Chabrier used these chords for color within an otherwise tonal context, Satie, in a sense, emancipated these chords, creating chains of "unresolved dissonances." Even though these pieces retain key signatures and nominal tonal centers, there is a sense of tonality being suspended as modal, plainchant-like melodies combined with evocative but non-functional diatonic harmonies.
Satie's music is often described as forward-looking, and indeed much of his music, some of the ballets in particular, clearly anticipate major movements in art and music, including Dadaism, Cubism, and Surrealism, by many years. In the case of the Sarabandes, one could perhaps extend this argument, and look forward 20 years to the music of Schoenberg, who insisted on the "emancipation of the dissonance" in the early years of the twentieth century. While Satie's Sarabandes are by no means atonal, in Gillmor's words, their music "comes very near to denying the constraining demands of the functional tonal system."