A Day In The Life

After the Rain
January 28, 2008, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Music



I love the piano music of Erik Satie (1866-1925).  I was first introduced to his music as a young piano student when I worked on his three Gymnopedies.  These are whimsical little pieces with a poignant right-hand melody fluttering here and there over left-hand chords.  It is almost as though Satie were doodling on the keyboard when he composed the Gymnopedies like an artist might doodle on a napkin while enjoying a cup of coffee in a Paris bistro.  I later found that Satie did indeed compose many of his piano pieces while working as a pianist in two Parisian clubs; Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat) and L’auberge du Clou (Inn of the Nail). 

Satie was an interesting fellow.  He entered the Paris conservatory at age thirteen and even though he studied there for eight years, he was not an extremely successful student.  He was somewhat of an enigma and, by all accounts, a fiercely independent musician.  He prefaced some of his works with the following words: “Those who will not understand are requested to observe the most respectful silence and to have a submissive attitude and inferiority.”  It is not known if he was making fun or being serious with his preface. 

Many of his piano pieces have quite outrageous titles such as “cold pieces”; “three melodies that make you flee”; and “three crooked dances”.  The performers are given instructions such as “hostile and belligerent”, “with hypocrisy”, “moderated and very bored”, and “run”.  Again, music historians are uncertain as to whether Satie was having fun or being serious.  He was an enigma. 

One of my favorite Satie quotes refers to the influence of the great German composer, Wagner.  Satie, speaking to a fellow French composer, said, “We must have a music that is ours, without sauerkraut if possible.” 

Musical scholars question as to whether Satie was a bitter cynic or a modest, unsatisfied creator of music.  Perhaps he was a bit of both.  I like to think of Satie giving an enigmatic wink as he scrawled the title Musique d’ameublement destiniee a etre ignoree (Furniture Music Destined to be Ignored) at the top of a page.  Maybe he simply didn’t take himself too seriously as he doodled at the piano in those dark Paris clubs.  Perhaps his only desire was to create beautiful, original music for the enjoyment of the performer rather than for the appreciation of the critics.  Music fresh and whimsical like droplets on leaves after the rain.


3 Comments so far
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I shall now have to try and locate some of his music, although to be honest, I am more of a word person. His titles and comments amuse me immensely. Thank you.

Comment by Sandy

I don’t recognize his name, but I’m sure I’ve probably heard some of his pieces before. He sounds intriguing!

Comment by Karmyn R

He didn’t take himself seriously… and maybe that made him relax and be creative.

Comment by Pamela

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