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<<  -- 4 --  Peter Dickinson    INDISPENSABLE

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Satie operated at the centre of Parisian artistic life. He was supported by Debussy, Ravel and younger composers such as Milhaud; he knew the leading practitioners in the other arts; and his portrait was frequently painted. He got mixed up in all kinds of political squabbles -- not always his fault -- which Whiting does much to disentangle.

Whiting asks where Satie encountered the earliest printed syncopations which he notated as early as 1900. Well, the first American rags got into print in 1897 and Joplin's The Maple Leaf Rag two years later, and they must have reached Paris. Much of Satie's work was collaborative right through from his music-hall years to the ballets of his last years. Whiting provides plentiful detail about these connections too. As if all this was not enough, Satie anticipated the horrors of muzak (furniture music) and the theatre of the absurd with his play Le Piège de Méduse.

No wonder John Cage said, in Silence in 1958: 'it's not a question of Satie's relevance. He's indispensable'.

That's the right term for Steven Moore Whiting's book too -- it's an indispensable repository of detailed information which enriches our enjoyment of this unique composer on every page. It is expensive but it's well produced and its dedicated research readably delivered brings Satie and his environment alive in a way which is not likely to be superceded.

Satie, the Bohemian: from Cabaret to Concert Hall by Steven Moore Whiting is published by Clarendon Press, Oxford (1999, 596 pages, ISBN 0-19-816458-0)

Copyright © 25 February 2001 Peter Dickinson, Aldeburgh, UK

 

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