A Mammal’s Notebook
Dismissed as a bizarre eccentric by many, Erik Satie has come to be seen as a key influence on twentieth century music. His compositions include, among other pieces, the ubiquitous Gymnopédies, the 3 Pieces in the Form of a Pear, and the Dada opera Relâche. In later life he gathered round him Les Six and the cream of the new generation of French composers. His influence has continued to widen; John Cage and the New York School composers hailed him as “indispensable,” and more recently certain of his pieces have been seen as prefiguring both Minimalist and Ambient music.
He was a valued friend of his most illustrious contemporaries: Debussy, Brancusi, Picabia etc., and the nonconformity of his private life, from the mystical “velvet gentleman” to the Dadaist disguised as quizzical bureaucrat.
His poignant, sly and witty writings embody all his contradictions. Included here are his “autobiographical” Memoirs of an Amnesiac, and wryly comic musical commentaries; the gnomic annotations to his musical scores (“For the SHRIVELLED and the DIMWITS, I have written a suitably ponderous chorale ...a kind of austere, unfrivolous introduction ...I dedicate this chorale to those who do not like me.”); the publications of his private church; his absurdist play Medusa’s Snare; advertising copy for his local suburban newspaper, and the mysterious, elaborately calligraphed, “private advertisements” found stuffed behind his piano after his death. Satie referred to himself as “a man in the manner of Adam (he of Paradise)” and added: “My humour is reminiscent of Cromwell’s. I am also indebted to Christopher Columbus, as the American spirit has sometimes tapped me on the shoulder, and I have joyfully felt its ironically icy bite.” He died as he lived: “without quite ceasing to smile.”
“It’s not a question of Satie’s relevence. He’s indispensable.” John Cage
“The smallest work by Satie is small the way a keyhole is small. Everything changes when you put your eye to it - or your ear.” Jean Cocteau