Eccentric French composer Erik Satie was born Éric Alfred Leslie Satie on 17 May 1866 at Honfleur in Normandy. He attended the Paris Conservatoire in 1879 but received very negative feedback from his teachers - his piano playing was considered insignificant, laborious and worthless, and he was branded the 'laziest student in the Conservatoire'. It was clear that his real talent lay in composition, although he also contributed to a range of publications, sometimes using pseudonyms.
He became known as a 'gymnopedist' in 1887, before he wrote the Gymnopédies, which became his most famous compositions. Other eccentric behaviour included referring to himself as a 'phonometrician' (someone who measures sounds), deliberately infecting himself with bronchitis to get discharged from military service, announcing the premiere of an anti-Wagnerian opera Le bâtard de Tristan (which Satie probably never wrote), founding his own church and writing Three pieces in the form of a pear.
His philosophy seemed to involve rejecting musical development and certain aspects of Romanticism, and not taking any more of his audience's time than was strictly necessary. As a result, many of his compositions were very short.
From 1899, when he fell on hard times, he made an income as a cabaret pianist, and in 1905, continuing his cabaret work, he enrolled for Vincent d'Indy's class to learn classical counterpoint.
Satie's piano miniatures began to be successful from 1912 onwards, and he was pleased until realising that his more recent work was being ignored.
He drank heavily in his later years, and died from cirrhosis of the liver on 1 July 1925, leaving many unpublished compositions hidden in unusual places in his apartment at Arcueil.
A selection of M&V articles about Erik Satie
Andrew Schartmann's Musical Tidbits - Pop Music and the Classical Idiom. Part II: Creative Quotations
CD Spotlight. A Curate's Egg - Satie, Glass, Feldman and Schubert, heard by Howard Smith. '... amiable verve ...'
Complete Engagement - Mike Wheeler listens to pianist Helen Reid
CD Spotlight. An Outright Winner - Dave Lee and friends' horn-centred pot pourri, strongly recommended by Howard Smith. '... positively mesmerizing ...'
Timings - Breaking Moulds: 1910, by Jennifer Paull
Ensemble. Museum Culture? - Experimental music by Cage, Cowell, Feldman, Rzewski, Satie and Wolff, heard by Malcolm Miller
CD Spotlight. An Undisturbed Evenness - Choral music 'from a Russian cathedral', heard by Paul Sarcich. '... engineered to tranquillity ...'
CD Spotlight. Engagingly Heartening - Choral and orchestral music by Arthur Honegger, enjoyed by Howard Smith. '... strikingly performed by Welsh forces ...'
Ensemble. Sparkling Performances - Yvonne Kenny and Iain Burnside at London's Wigmore Hall, reviewed by Robert Hugill
'Postlude' and other nonsense - by Jennifer Paull
CD Spotlight. Playing hypocritically - Eric Satie's piano music, surveyed by Brian Howes. '... all played straight and cleanly, as I expect Satie would have wished.'
MV3, with Gordon Rumson and Keith Bramich - Film Musings
Indispensable - Peter Dickinson reads Steven Moore Whiting's 'Satie, the Bohemian: from Cabaret to Concert Hall'
Yaara Tal interview -