Erik Satie, classical music composer

Erik Satie image

Erik Satie


An eccentric figure in the avant-garde movement in Paris around the turn of the century, Erik Satie was born at Honfleur in Normandy on May 17, 1866. At the age of four, Satie's family moved to Paris when his father was offered a translator's job in the French capital. Two years later, however, the death of his mother forced him and his younger brother Conrad to be sent back to Honfleur to live with his grandparents. Back in his hometown, Satie received his first lessons in music from a local organist. In 1878, after his grandmother passed away, Satie and his brother returned to their father in Paris.

The following year, Satie entered the prestigious Paris Conservatoire, yet failed to live up to the standards of the school or make any valuable impressions while there. His professors called him untalented and, one in particular, "the laziest student in the Conservatoire." Sent home for two years, Satie attempted to return to the Conservatoire but again failed to succeed at his studies. He then decided to enlist in the military, but this too was short lived. He was discharged after purposefully infecting himself with bronchitis.

By 1887, Satie published the first of his composition; the following year saw the beginning of his most famous composition, Gymnopédies. Satie's eccentric character, however, quickly became known and barred him from making any favorable impressions with the Parisian cultural establishment. During this time he met both Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel, the latter being influenced by Satie's compositional style. Despite an inheritance in 1895, Satie inevitably found himself in financial trouble and eventually was forced to make money as a cabaret pianist. He adapted many popular compositions, as well as providing some creations of his own, for such purposes though he would later state that he detested his cabaret music. Nevertheless, it provided him with much needed income. In the meantime, his friend Debussy was enjoying tremendous success with his opera Pelléas et Mélisande.

In 1905, Satie unexpectedly enrolled in Vincent d'Indy's Schola Cantorum de Paris, a music school opened in 1894 to counterbalance the operatic emphasis of the Paris Conservatoire. Friends and professors alike were shocked by this move of Satie, in part for Satie's interest in classical counterpoint but also because of d'Indy's connection to Saint-Saëns, of whom Satie was no admirer. Nevertheless, Satie attended classes at the Schola for five years, receiving an intermediate diploma in 1908. Some of his classroom exercises were even published after his death. Also during these years, Satie himself began to change, joining a radical socialist party and adopting the attire of the bourgeois.

In the succeeding years, Satie reached the height of his career. Despite his eccentricity, his new humorous compositions for piano were proving quite successful. Yet, what proved most beneficial for him was a group of young composers around Ravel announcing their approval of Satie's early works (prior to his time at the Schola). Initially, Satie was pleased with this attention but soon realized it was to the detriment of his latest works and so he sought other young artists more aligned with his current ideas. He soon found company with Jean Cocteau, Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud and Francis Poulenc, who later would be known as Les Six. With Cocteau, Satie worked on Parade, a ballet which premiered in 1917 by Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes with sets and costumes by Pablo Picasso. In 1919, he became associated with the founder of the Dada movement and later with other artists associated with it, including Francis Picabia and Man Ray.

On July 1, 1925, Satie passed away after years of excessive drinking. In his residence of twenty-seven years at Arcueil, which no one had ever visited, his friends discovered compositions that were either entirely unknown or believed to have been lost, some of which were later published.

Composer Title Date Action
Erik Satie La Diva de l'Empire (arr. Easley Blackwood) 04/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Gymnopedie nº1 08/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Les fleurs (arr. Robert Caby ) 04/01/2009 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Gnossiene No.2 10/18/2010 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Gymnopedie No.1 08/06/2011 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Prélude de la Porte Héroique du Ciel ( live rec ) 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Fugue a tatons from "Choses vues a droite et a gauche (sans lunettes)" 12/29/2011 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Choral hypocrite from "Choses vues a droite et a gauche (sans lunettes)" 01/03/2012 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie Fantaisie musculaire from "Choses vues a droite et a gauche (sans lunettes)" 01/03/2012 Play Add to playlist
Erik Satie 3 Sonneries Rose + Croix 10/01/2011 Play Add to playlist