Some artists march to the beat of a different drummer, but Erik Satie wrote the melody to accompany that different beat, and then gave the whole piece a crazy name. Dismissed by many critics during his lifetime as an eccentric bohemian... [more]
Some artists march to the beat of a different drummer, but Erik Satie wrote the melody to accompany that different beat, and then gave the whole piece a crazy name. Dismissed by many critics during his lifetime as an eccentric bohemian whose absurdist humor disguised a lack of talent, Satie is now credited with prefiguring major developments of the mid-twentieth century, such as Neo-Classicism and Minimalism.
His music influenced many twentieth-century composers, including Debussy and Ravel, as well as John Cage, whose 1949 discovery of Satie's 'Vexations,' a short piano piece to be repeated 840 times, sparked a renewed interest in his work. His own influences ranged from medieval plainsong to classical French composers to cabaret tunes. This eclectic mix accented his unorthodox musical training, which included early lessons with the blind organist of his hometown church, conservatory studies, and a stint as a caf' pianist in Montmartre.
He composed lyric dramas such as the Cubist ballet 'Parade' (1917), a collaborative effort among himself, Picasso, and Cocteau. He also wrote masses for the Rosicrucian mystic religious sect and short piano pieces known, in part, for their unorthodox names, 'Flabby Preludes for a Dog,' 'Dried-up Embryos.' He peppered the compositions and with quirky performance directions, urging performers to play 'Light as an egg,' 'Like a nightingale with toothache.'
These idiosyncrasies, guaranteed to offend the critics, belied a very serious approach to his art. The different movements of his pieces explore different facets or alternate versions of the same musical idea. Of the 'Trois
Gymnopedies,' probably his best-known work today, critic and fellow composer Constant Lambert wrote, 'When we pass from the first to the second Gymnopedie' it is as though we were moving slowly round a piece of sculpture and examining it from a different point of view.'
Satie also introduced the concept of background music, which he called 'furniture music.' Hard to believe, in our muzak-tortured modern existence, that this was a radical notion in Satie's day. Somewhere, he is laughing. [show less]