Friday, July 6, 2018

Erik Satie, Composer of the "Belle Epoque".

The Parisian avant-garde composer Erik Satie (1866-1925), whose Gymnopedie is featured on Aerostat's La Belle Epoque album, is generally regarded as a foundational modern musician whose compositional forms have been widely imitated in classical, jazz, pop, and other styles. His work is considered to be a precursor to 20th-century movements such as surrealism, minimalism and the "Theatre of the Absurd".

His love of experimentation and the unexpected in his compositions was also reflected in his personal life, as evidenced by some of his more eccentric habits:

-- He composed one piece, titled Vexations, that consisted of a single bass phrase to be repeated 840 times. Satie advised anyone who attempted to play the work in full that "it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, through serious immobility." The first known complete public performance of Vexations took place in 1963 under the direction of John Cage (another well known experimental composer).

-- He founded his own religious sect, Église Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur, after a falling-out with a friend who had founded a sect known as the Mystical Order of the Rose and Cross of the Temple and Grail. Satie was the only known member of this sect.

-- Long before "elevator music" was invented, Satie created what he called "furniture music". In 1902 he staged a performance in a Paris art gallery, intended to serve merely as a background while the audience turned its attention elsewhere. He asked the audience beforehand to ignore his performance and carry on with their usual activities, but, perhaps out of habit, they politely hushed when the performance began.

-- He didn't consider himself a musician or composer, but a "photometrographer" whose ideas were entirely based on the science of phonology, or the study of sound. "Science is the dominating factor," he wrote. "I think I can say that phonology is superior to music. There's more variety to it. The financial return is greater too."

More fascinating facts about Satie can be found here.