I don’t really know why it took me so long to feature Erik Satie in this French Composers’ Series, but today is Make Music (June 21) and this year is also A Worldwide Day of Vexations:
“Inspired by Cage’s visionary spirit, “A Worldwide day of Vexations” unites a community of intrepid vibraphonists from around the globe in a complete, live streamed performance of Erik Satie’s epic work. Starting in Australia and ending on the West coast of the United States, segments of over 10 performances will be strung together on www.worldwidevexations.com to create one 18-hour performance in its entirety.” —From www.worldwidevexations.com
So here are two MP3s giving the pronunciation of Satie’s name and Vexations:
Satie’s Vexations is an enigmatic short composition that was never published (and probably never performed) during Satie’s time. The score mentions 840 repetitions, although it might not be a performance note, just a curious comment or even a prank intended to ridicule lengthy Germanic classical pieces (think Wagner). The Wikiepdia entry is quite interesting.
There are many weird stories that one can learn about Erik Satie, but I strongly recommend reading his letters gathered by the director of the Erik Satie Foundation in Paris, Ornella Volta. Satie was a complex character—not the Dadaist caricature that is sometimes portrayed in the media—and he influenced generations of composers (including Maurice Ravel, John Cage, and Les Six). Besides the vary famous Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes, his output includes Mélodies, songs that sound like the Cabaret music he performed a lot during his youth in Montmartre. One of them is Allons-y Chochotte! (Let’s go sweetie!) which lyrics even feature a reference to the Rome Prize!
If you are ever in Paris, make sure to walk by one of his apartments 6, rue Cortot or take a day trip to Honfleur, in Normandy, to visit the Maison Satie, a nice museum full of very interesting Satie paraphernalia…