Erik Satie (1866-1925), a French composer. His early impressionist works influenced Claude Debussy, who later returned the favor by orchestrating Satie's Trois Gymnopédies, which itself was an abandonment of Satie's earlier style - this new, simpler "furniture music" was early ambient music, and ran against the grain of the ever-more-complex directives of European Art Music. He was the father of Les Six, and their biggest fan. After returning to school, he changed again: the noisemaking devices in his ballet Parade provided new vistas for future composers.

Erik Satie was known as the velvet gentleman for his habit of wearing a green velvet hat, jacket, vest, pants and umbrella.

His eccentricities were not limited to his sartorial choices. In his music, he would tell strange stories along the score. Making little but surrealist sense, they nevertheless provide a dimension other composers do not have.

In the Gymnopedies he abandoned the use of bar lines--the traditional manner to indicate when to begin counting at 1 again (and the traditional irritant to students)--though it is apparent that there are still an ordinary four beats to each non-apparent bar.

He played at a night club called Le chat noir, which may account for the less classical, and more popular feel to the Gymnopedies.

At one point, Satie at least flirted with Rosicrucianism, calling many pieces by titles reminiscent of that order.

Satie was told by some contemporaries that, lacking a degree, he couldn't compose. So he went to a school, the Schola Cantorum, and got one.

In the sixties, Satie made a triumphant entry into the culture with a series of three albums of his piano music on the Angel label. Besides the Gymnopedies, there were the Gnossiennes (about Crete and its capital Knossos?), and Trois Morceau en Forme de Poire for four hands (only there weren't three pieces, and they weren't in the form of a pear), among many, many others. Later there was a fourth album of orchestral works.

His ballets, Parade and Mercure were notable for, among other things, the use of typewriters, and sets by Picasso.

Satie made his way into pop culture when Blood, Sweat, and Tears unsed the theme to Gymnopedie #1 on its self-named album.

In the early seventies, at a performance of Jacques Brel Is Alive and Well and Living in Paris on the stage of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, the band warmed up with the same theme.

Complete list of Satie's works

Titles in parenthesis are originally untitled. Years in parenthesis are estimations.

pf = piano solo. v = voice. str = strings. fls = flutes. hps = harps. orch = orchestra.

Information from a research by Robert Orledge: Satie the Composer, Cambridge, 1990.

Name, instrument(s), year written, year published

Allegro pf 1884 1972
Valse-ballet pf 1885 1887
Fantaisie-valse pf 1885 1887
Elégie v, pf 1886 1887
Trois Mélodies (de 1886) v, pf 1886 1887
Ogives pf 1886 1889
Deux Quatuors str (1886) ----
Chanson v, pf 1887 1888
Trois Sarabandes pf 1887 1911
Trois Gymnopédies pf 1888 1888
Gnossienne (No.5) pf 1889 1968
Chanson Hongroise pf 1889 1974
Trois Gnossiennes pf 1890 1893
Danse small orch 1890 1911
Marche antique pour la Rose+Croix pf 1891 1968
Gnossienne (No.4) pf 1891 1968
Menuet de La Princesse Maleine pf 1891 ----
Leit-motiv de 'Panthée' pf 1891 1892
Prélude du 'Prince du Byzance' pf 1891 lost
Salut Drapeau! v, pf 1891 1968
Le Fils des étoiles fls, hps 1891 1896
Trois Sonneries de la Rose+Croix tpts, hps 1892 1892
Fête donnée par des Chevaliers... pf (1892) 1929
(1er) Prélude du Nazaréen pf 1892 1929
(2e) Prélude du Nazaréen pf 1892 1929
Uspud fls, hps, str 1892 1895
Noël pf 1892 lost
Eginhard Prélude pf (1893) 1929
Danses Gothiques pf 1893 1929
Bonjour Biqui, Bonjour! v, pf 1893 1969
(Prière) pf (1893) 1968
Vexations pf 1893 1949
Roxane v, orch 1893 lost
Prélude de La Porte héroïque... pf 1894 1894
Messe de la foi org 1894 lost
Messe des pauvres org, choir 1895 1920
Psaumes pf 1895 lost
Gnossienne (No.6) pf 1897 1968
(Petite Ouverture à danser) pf (1897) 1968
(Caresse) pf 1897 1968
Pièces froides pf 1897 1912
Je te veux v, pf (1897) 1902
Jack-in-the-box pf 1899 1937
Un Dîner à l'Elysée v, pf 1899 1903
Le Veuf v, pf (1899) 1966
Sorcière v, pf (1899) ----
Le Picador est mort v, pf (1899) ----
Enfant martyre v, pf (1899) ----
Air fantôme v, pf (1899) ----
Aline-Polka pf arr (1899) ----
Geneviève de Brabant v, chorus, pf (1899) 1930
Prélude de 'La Mort de...' pf 1900 1968
Verset laïque & somptueux pf 1900 1900
(Petite Musique de Clown triste) pf (1900) 1980
(Rêverie du pauvre) pf 1900 1968v
The Dreamy Fish pf 1901 1970
The Angora Ox large orch (1901) 1966
Chanson barbare pf (1901) ----
Tendrement v, pf (1901) 1902
Poudre d'or pf (1901) 1902
Trois Morceaux en forme de Poire pf duet 1903 1911
La Diva de l''Empire' v, pf 1904 1904
Le Picadilly Marche pf 1904 1907
Chez le docteur v, pf (1905) 1906
L'Omnibus automobile v, pf (1905) 1906
Impérial-Oxford v, pf (1905) ----
Légende Californienne v, pf (1905) 1922
Allons-y Chochotte v, pf 1905 1978
(Exercices) pf (1905) 1968
Rambouillet v, pf (1905) 1978
Les Oiseaux v, pf (1905) 1978
Marienbad v, pf (1905) 1978
Pousse l'amour orch 1906 1907
Psitt! Psitt! v, pf (1906) ----
Padacale pf (1906) ----
Aim-Chéri pf (1906) ----
Fugue-Valse pf (1906) 1924
Chanson médiévale v, pf 1906 1968
Passacaille pf 1906 1929
Prélude en tapisserie pf 1906 1929
Nouvelles 'Piéces froides' pf 1907 1968
Fâcheux exemple pf 1908 1968
Désespoir agréable pf 1908 1968
Apercus désagréables pf duet 1912 1913
Petite Sonate pf 1909 1968
Choeur d'adolescents v, pf 1909 ----
Dieu Credo rouge v, pf 1909 ----
'Il portrait un gilet' v, pf (1909) ----
Deux Choses pf (1909) 1968
Profondeur pf (1909) 1968
(Douze petits Chorals) pf (1909) 1968
Menuet basque pf (1909) ----
Le Conteur magique pf (1909) ----
Songe-creux pf (1909) 1968
Le Prisonnier maussade pf (1909) 1968
Le Grand Singe pf (1909) 1968
Le Dîner de Pierrot pf 1909 ----
La Chemise pf 1909 ----
En Habit de cheval pf duet 1911 1911
Deux Préludes pour un chien pf 1912 1968
(Gambades) pf 1912 1968
Préludes flasques pour un chien pf 1912 1967
Véritables Préludes flasques... pf 1912 1912
Le Piège de Méduse pf 1913 1929
Desciptions automatiques pf 1913 1913
Croquis et agaceries d'un gros... pf 1913 1913
Embryons desséchés pf 1913 1913
San Bernardo pf 1913 ----
Chapitres tournés en tous sens pf 1913 1913
Vieux sequins et vielles cuirasses pf 1913 1913
(Trois Nouvelles Enfantines) pf 1913 1972
Menus propos enfantins pf 1913 1914
Enfantillages pittoresques pf 1913 1914
Peccadilles importunes pf 1913 1914
Les Pantins dansent pf 1913 1914
Un Acte pf (1914) ----
(Air) pf (1914) 1968
Choses vues à droite et à gauche vn, pf 1914 1916
Sports et divertissements pf 1914 1914
Heures séculaires et instantanées pf 1914 1916
Obstacles venimeux pf 1914 ----
Les Trois Valses distinguées... pf 1914 1916
Trois Poèmes d'amour v, pf 1914 1914
Rêverie sur un plat pf (1915) ----
La Mer est pleine d'eau... orch (1915) ----
Cinq Grimaces pour 'Le Songe...' orch 1915 1929
Avant-dernières pensées pf 1915 1916
L'Aurore aux doigts de rose pf duet arr 1916 1916
Trois Mélodies v, pf 1916 1917
Parade large orch 1917 1917
L''Embarquement pour Cythère' vn, pf 1917 ----
Conte pour un ballet pf 1917 lost
Sonatine bureaucratique pf 1917 1917
Musique d'ameublement fl, cl, tpt, str 1917 1975
La Veille du combat v, pf (1917) ----
Socrate v, small orch 1918 1919
Cinq Nocturnes pf 1919 1920
6e Nocturne pf 1920 ----
(Petite Danse) pf 1919 1968
Marche de Cocagne tpt duet 1919 1919
Trois Petites Pièces montées pf duet 1919 1921
Musique d'ameublement pf duet 1920 ----
Premier Menuet pf 1920 1922
La Belle Excentrique pf duet 1920 1922
Quatre Petites Mélodies v, pf 1920 1922
Sonnerie pour réveiller le bon... tpt duet 1921 1921
Paul & Virginie v, orch 1923 ----
Divertissement La Statue retrouvée org, tpt 1923 ----
Tenture de Cabinet préfectoral small orch 1923 1975
Ludions v, pf 1923 1926
Le Roi de la grande Ile v, pf 1923 ----
Recitatives pour Gounod's opera... vv, orch 1923 ----
Mercure orch 1924 1929
Relâche orch 1924 1926
Cinéma Entr'acte symphonique... small orch 1924 1926

Erik Satie, a composer, calligrapher, and writer was born in Honfleur, France on 17th May 1866.

During his lifetime he lived very much as an "artist" - for his work and his ideals, and did not place a great deal of importance on money. Consequently he lived as poor man for much of his life.

Despite this he moved in the same circles as more famous contemporaries such as Jean Cocteau, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Pablo Picasso, and it was with these people he shared his ideas and friendship.

Satie has a reputation as an eccentric - he gave his work bizarre titles such as Chilled Pieces, Drivelling Preludes (for a Dog), and Dried-up Embryos. This is probably because he had a distinct and unusual sense of wit, but also because he enjoyed courting controversy among the music critics who held a very requited dislike of him.

His music also included strange instructions addressed to the performer. For example: " To whoever. I forbid anyone to read the text aloud during the musical performance. Failure to obey to my instruction will provoke my just indignation against anyone so presumptuous. No exception to this rule will be granted."

And famously, From the short piano piece, titled Vexations (1893): "To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence…"

This led to purists ensuring that they did play it exactly 840 times, which of course he doesn't specify is actually required.

Satie was considered an outsider, even founding his own church. He also valued his privacy, never letting anyone see his apartment in Arceuil, where he lived for the last 27 years of his life. He had one known relationship in his life - an intense love affair in 1893 with the model, painter and former trapeze artiste Suzanne Valadon.

He and his music were relatively unknown until the 1960s but in the latter part of this century he has become more popular, and his originality respected rather than vilified.

The great irony of Satie is that his most famous piece is Trois Gymnopedies. Now as likely as Eine Kleine Nachtmusic to be played as the accessible "everyman's" classical piece, it was actually Satie who invented the concept of "Muzak" with what he called "Furniture Music". This was music, which was designed not to interfere with other activities, but to provide a pleasant or soothing background to them. As he remarked: "I see it as melodious, as masking the clatter of knives and forks without drowning it completely, without imposing itself. It would fill up the awkward silences which occasionally descend on guests. It would save them the usual banalities. Moreover it would neutralise the street noises that indiscreetly force themselves into the picture".

This node lived happily under Eric Satie for a few innocent moments, long enough to collect a Ching! and a good few votes, until Yam pointed out that really, he's an Erik. Sorry for any confusion, and thanks to Yam for furthering the cause of veracity :-)

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