When you want to know what it’s like to be French, and I mean really French, cast your mind if you have one back to Erik Satie. He played his music and never wrote it down. A musician friend transcribed it on the sly and published it later.

So here are some of his compositions. Which, if you wanted, you could still play on your iPhone at Les Deux Maggots.

Satie’s Gymnopedies 1,2,3,4

A riotous account of his early years.

“Satie was the son of Alfred Satie and his wife Jane Leslie (née Anton), who was born in London to Scottish parents. Erik was born at Honfleur in Normandy; his home there is open to the public. When Satie was four years old, his family moved to Paris, his father having been offered a translator’s job in the capital. After his mother’s death in 1872, he was sent (at age 6), together with his younger brother, Conrad, back to Honfleur to live with his paternal grandparents. There he received his first music lessons from a local organist. In 1878, when he was 12 years old, his grandmother died, and the two brothers were reunited in Paris with their father, who remarried (a piano teacher) shortly afterwards. From the early 1880s onwards, Satie started publishing salon compositions by his step-mother and himself, among others.

“In 1879, Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he was soon labelled untalented by his teachers. Georges Mathias, his professor of piano at the Conservatoire, described his pupil’s piano technique in flatly negative terms, “insignificant and laborious” and “worthless”.[4] Émile Decombes called him “the laziest student in the Conservatoire”.[5] Years later, Satie related that Mathias, with great insistence, told him that his real talent lay in composing. After being sent home for two and a half years, he was readmitted to the Conservatoire at the end of 1885 (age 19), but was unable to make a much more favourable impression on his teachers than he had before, and, as a result, resolved to take up military service a year later. However, Satie’s military career did not last very long; within a few months he was discharged after deliberately infecting himself with bronchitis.”

And here’s what ESPN loves to call “a body of work,” as if a bunch of jocks know what that means.

How many of us would trade everything for an hour of deathless music as our gift to the universe?

  1. Anonymous’s avatar

    Very familiar with this first piece. And who would want to infect themselves with bronchitis? Crazy guy, but talented!


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