Satie, a French
composer, studied music at the Paris Conservatory Schola Cantorum.
He was the pupil of Vincent D'Indy and Albert Roussel.
Against the romantic
Wagnerian style which was incapable of expressing a French sensibility,
Satie developed a controlled, abstract and seemingly simple style.
His music, in general, features a removed, unaffected beauty. Although
his early works anticipate the harmonic innovations of some impressionists,
such as Debussy and Ravel, his later compositions foretell the neoclassicism
of the early 20th century. Satie often disguised his artistic intention
with comical humor, adding nonsense programs or whimsical titles such
as Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear (1918). The "avant-garde"
in Satie's aesthetics is found not in his often very bland music but
in the ways that his compositional simplicity challenged the ultra-seriousness
of the musical establishment.
Duchamp and Man Ray in René Clair's 1924 film Entr'acte
Satie, and Picabia during the filming of Entr'acte, 1924
A widely experimental
musician, Satie composed a musical score in 1924 for a twenty-two
minute avant-garde film entitled ENTR'ACTE, written and produced
by Francis Picabia, directed by René Clair. The cast of the short
film included Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray and Satie himself. It was the
first time a "shot-by-shot" musical composition had been written for
a film. Satie meticulously examined the film and wrote a composition
designed to synchronize exactly with it and to have rhythms match
the flow of the editing of the film. It is certain that none of the
artists involved in the film were interested in providing the audience
something that was expected. (They used an element of pleasant rather
than unpleasant surprise.) The music of Satie was recorded by Henri
Sauguet and added to the silent print in 1967.
The music playing
here is cited from SATIE/3Gymnopédies & Other Piano Works,
1984, no. 17 - Le Picadilly. Beginning in 1888, Satie was a pianist in a
number of Montmartre cafés (which were the meeting places of musicians
as well as of writers and painters.) Around 1900, he produced several
first-rate café songs. Le Picadilly is one of the music-hall
pieces composed during this period. Satie's contribution to the world
of popular entertainment was substantial.
Satie by Francis Picabia
It is hard for us
now to imagine how astonished the Paris audience must have been with
Satie's music which was so different from the lush compositions of
his peers, Franck and Saint-Saens. Satie's audience must have been
especially astonished when the music they heard was accompanied by
the composer's bizarre titles and performance instructions. Yet Satie's
compositions are still unlike anything else in the piano literature
and still full of touching and evocative delight and charm.