Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (17 May 1866 1 July 1925) was a French composer. His best-known works are extremely famous piano pieces called Gymnopédies (especially the first one) and Gnossiennes, which overshadow considerably the rest of his output.
Satie lived most of his life in utter poverty, first in Montmartre, then in a suburb of Paris called Arcueil, in a small room which he never let anyone enter while he was still alive. He mostly wrote for the piano, although late in his life he wrote three ballets called: "Parade," "Relâche," and "Mercure."
Satie had a taste for strange and unusual ideas, which can be seen in the titles he gave to his pieces : Veritables Préludes Flasques (Pour un Chien) (Truly Flabby Preludes (For a Dog)), Embryons Desséchés (Dessicated Embryos), Descriptions Automatiques (Automatic descriptions), and in the weird indications written on the sheets: "With bewilderment," "without pride"... Sometimes, most notably in Sports et Divertissements, he went so far as to write little stories or poems which give meaning to the music.
Tropes that apply to Erik Satie:
- Born in the Wrong Century: Satie's music was way ahead of his time, while he himself has a strong nostalgia towards the Middle Ages.
- Dada: His music is seen as a precursor of the movement.
- Dead Artists Are Better / Vindicated by History: Satie was seen as a lightweight during his lifetime, because his music was so minimalistic, simple and often accompanied by amusing titles. Only decades after he died he was hailed as an innovator and a predecessor of many musical genres, including Ambient and Minimalism.
- Epic Rocking: Satie composed a piece called "Vexations." The two bars of music comes with the instruction that, in order to play the theme 840 times in a row, the musician must prepare themselves in the deepest silence with serious immobilities. Most interpret this as "you must play the theme 840 times", which combined with the "very slow" tempo instruction can take well over a day of uninterrupted playing to perform. (This may not have been Satie's intention, but then again, why else would he mention playing the theme 840 times?)
- Everything Is an Instrument: "Parade" makes use of an air siren, a gun, and a typewriter.
- Iconic Outfit: Satie's bowler hat, black raincoat, and countless umbrellas. Every CD release shows these visual trademarks of the man.
- Lonely Piano Piece: "Gymnopédies."
- Starving Artist: One of the most famous examples.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: He and Claude Debussy were this.
- Word Salad Title: He had a penchant for these, including such works as: "Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear," "Old Sequins and Armor," "3 Sketches and Exasperations of a Big Wooden Fellow," and the above mentioned "Truly Flabby Preludes (For a Dog)."
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: Born Eric Alfred Leslie Satie, he took to writing his name Erik early in his life, perhaps as an homage to his "viking" ancestry (his mother was Scottish).