Sunday, February 6, 2011

Erik Satie was born at Honfleur and  received his first music lessons from a local organistIn 1879  he entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he was  labeled untalented and lazy and his piano technique critiqued  as "insignificant , laborious and worthless".
In 1887 he left home for Montmartre and  became friends  with the poet Patrice Contamine  and Claude Debussy .


Playing piano in cabaret theatres he started publishing his Gymnopédies.  

 By 1891 he was the official composer and chapel-master for a Rosicrucian following.
In1892 he stopped using barlines and  devised a compositional system for music. Scores of his compositions  were covered with written remarks which were often read out during performances.  
In 1893  an  affair  began with model and artist Suzanne Valadon.  

After their first night together he proposed marriage  but Valadon moved to a room next door at the Rue Cortot.  

Satie became obsessed with her, calling her his Biqui,(goatling)and writing impassioned notes about "her whole being, lovely eyes, gentle hands, and tiny feet".
During their relationship Satie composed the Danses gothiques as a kind of prayer for  peace of mind, and Valadon painted a portrait of Satie. After six months she moved away, leaving him broken-hearted and  left with "nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness".  This was his only intimate relationship.
He met the young Maurice Ravel  and founded the Metropolitan Church of Art of the Leading Christ. As its only member he composed a Grande messe , and wrote a flood of letters, articles and pamphlets in support of the church.  H e applied for membership to the Académie Française twice, writing that the board (presided  over by Saint-Saëns) owed him membership.
 In 1895 he inherited money, allowing him to print more writings and to change from wearing a priestlike habit to being the "Velvet Gentleman".

But  by 1896 all his money had vanished and he  moved to cheaper and smaller lodgings. He became a member of a radical socialist party and in a filing cabinet  kept a collection of imaginary buildings made out of metal which he drew on little cards.  He would publish announcements in local journals, offering the buildings,  a"castle in lead" for rent.

He wrote for Vanity Fair in the 20's and after years of heavy drinking died in1925 from cirrhosis .   No one had entered his room since he had moved 27 years earlier. His friends discovered compositions  behind the piano and in velvet suits which included the Vexations, Geneviève de Brabant, The Dreamy Fish, and  a set of "canine" piano pieces.

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