Thanks to @Charles Roth MPC
I am now back at a major
Erik Satie phase.
He was also a composer of cabaret songs, though he later disowned these works some of them are of a purely stunning beauty. This is my favourite: Je Te Veux, sung by a not too classically trained voice (a plus for my taste, and I believe more authentic) by Juliette
Yes, I am a major Erik Satie geek in the making. His subtle humour, his composition style, his stubborn individuality ...
This is how breathtakingly detailed his scores could be. The preface to his multi media work "Sports Et Divertisements"
The very first time I heard of Erik Satie was during a university course on mixed arts, music and applied arts. Quite a few lessons have left a lasting impression on me. Parts of what we learned was already known to me, but I had never before experienced it in such a density and put into relation to each other. Many artists and bands I loved at the time (and still do today) have huge relations to dadaism etc, so this was ... overwhelming.
- Bauhaus, for example Oskar Schlemmer's Triadisches Ballett where the dancers became geometrical forms and colours, the pieces were a combination of dance, music, colours and geometrical forms and the golden thread was number three
- Charlotte Salomon's Singespiel Charlotte Salomo was a painter and used form, letters, visual poems, literature and curated music. Her ambitious "Singespiel" consisted of paintings, painted on transparents which were to be layered, texts, a musical playlist and was to be performed in a theatrical setting. She was 26 years old she gave the notebook to a trusted friend, the only reason these survive. She was murdered by the Nazis in Auschwitz.
- Alexander Scriabin and his "colour piano", his unfortunately unrealized dreams of a week long multimedia event he was planning to call "Mysterium". He was planning to create a performance involving music, colours, smell, building a cathedral from light and mists, claiming everyone who was to be there a performing artist
- We also learned about the [url]https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dada_Manifesto]Dada Manifesto[/url] and the Manifesto of Futurism and heard a part of Kurt Schwitters' Ursonate
So you may already guess that this was a highly exciting and inspiring time, I was floored how much of what I regarded as modern avantgarde, multimedia, minimalism et al was in fact old farts in new packaging. Not that that would derail any of the artists I love as I believe in the importance of learning and using something for oneself as a value of expression in itself.
But I was not prepared
for what I was getting myself into when we were introduced to the likes of Erik Satie. The Velvet Gentelman. Who created the idea of Ambient Music when he composed short pieces which were to be looped and explicitly not listened to
as their intention was just to create a pleasent room atmosphere, just like any other piece of furniture. He also drew ads for the new business of professional musical tile merchants.
Furnishing music replaces "waltzes" and "operatic fantasias" etc. Don't be confused! It's something else!!! No more "false music"
Furnishing music completes one's property;
it's new; it doesn't upset customs; it isn't tiring; it's French; it won't wear out; it isn't boring.
There is endlessly more fun to be expected when exploring Satie, and just listening to the music will not cut it. It's too much for this single post, but ...
- He defied motives and used short musical building blocks as his main compositional tool, which lead to him being severely criticised and ridiculed. Which again instigated his wit, he founded his own religion whose single dignitary was he himself, wrote a clerical newsletter that he actually mailed out to it's only subscriber (he himself) and excommunicated his critics.[list]He was a gifted caricaturist who drew his own bust ("I was born very young into a very old world)", constantly scribbled and doodled away
- Composed some exquisitly awesome songs for cabaret (he later disowned these pieces) to earn some money
- sometimes worked as a cabaret pianist
- hardly (if ever) used measurements in the traditional way, his scores do not include playing instructions for speed or expression in the traditional way, his playing instructions form poemns that are intended for the performer only, explicitly not inteneded to be read out aloud for the audience
- some of his scores are also visual music, "Augenmusic", for example a piece about waves has the notes arranged in a way that they form visual waves
- One of his most (in)famous pieces is Vexations, a short enharmonic piece inscribed: "The piece bears the inscription "In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities" As usual with Satie, it is unclear whether this was a serious idea or just taking the piss.
And I can truly say that by now Erik Satie has become one of the most notable and direct influences for myself, there is so much in his art that directly speaks to me and that I find directly attractive and absolutely relatable.
After he had been completely forgotten he has become much more known and prominent during the last few decades, with some of his pieces being used for ads, for complilations such as "Sensual classical music" and the likes. I have spoken to a professional pianist who has played Satie, but completely dismissed him as "without any food value". The confusion about how to play Satie only enhances the confusion. How fast, slow, expressive, restrained ... There are myriads of versions for other instruments, arrangements etc. But to me only very few meet the dry humour and the passionate dedication. Interestingly there has been a tendency to play his pieces extemely fast during the 60s/70s and it has been only the Reinbert de Leeuwe who was radical enough to change this. He slowed down so much that each single note can be enjoyed, "walked around and measured", to quote a few Satiisms. And it is this approach that peels off the indifference of just some nice music and really brings Satie's compositions and melodies to shine. See the video linked above.
As stated before quite a few times, I am very much struggling with my appreciation of classical music. As a result I prefer the less serious and traditional Satie renditions. Maybe that is clear now: I am not really in for classical music at all. I love Satie. The velvet gentelman.
This is a movie where you can see Satie firing a canon over Paris, wearing his trademark bowler hat and an umbrella. He also scored the soundtrack.
One of my favourite paintings of Satie, by Santiago Rusinol.
And a recording of Musique d'ameublement, the furniture music. The story goes that Satie had it played between an intermission during a concert. People were leaving their seats, probably hoping to grab a drink or going to the loo, when the musicians started playing. Immediately everyone rushed back to the seats, believing the concert was continuing. Therefore you could observe a well dressed gentelman jumping around, instructing everyone with his high voice: "Please, do not pay any attention to the music! Do not take a seat! Do not listen to the music at all!"
So one of his greatest inventions turned out to be just another failure at first. Later others would pick up on his ideas and refine them. Brian Eno is just one of them. Compare: Brian Eno (1975) Discrete Music