Home: Overview: Biographies: Erik Satie

Erik Satie was born in Honfleur, France, in 1866. He moved to Paris in 1884 and studied briefly at the Paris Conservatory. After spending time at the official composer of the Rosicrucian movement, he found work at Le Chat Noir as a pianist.

Satie was never terribly popular or well-known as a composer during his lifetime. He did attract some interest as the musical godfather of Les Six (and having particular fondness for the music of Arthur Honegger, whose sparse chamber works particularly seem related to Satie's own work). He was friendly with many people whose names are better known than his (including Cocteau, Debussy, and Picasso).

Despite the remarkable originality of his musical style, and his aptitude for other arts (he wrote brilliant absurd prose, and was a skilled calligrapher), Satie's music has been neglected for many years. This is sad, not only because he deserved recognition, but because his wonderful music so often goes unheard. Even when he is vaunted as original, it is often more for originality's sake than for the music itself. May this change.

Many people know at least one or two pieces of music by Satie - his Gymnopedies almost qualify for the category "muzak" these days, as they are played in various revolting arrangements for electric banjo and rubber saxophone in supermarkets and on telephones everywhere. This is sidesplitting, since it was Satie himself who came up with the idea - he called it Furniture Music. It was specifically designed to be background music, and was not to be listened to. Its cell-like units are strangely beautiful in a way which does not diminish even with frequent listening.
Satie was inspired by many sources including cabaret culture, Greek antiquity, and medieval religion. Je te Veux (I Desire You) was inspired by his association with the cabarets of Montmartre.

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