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Erik Satie

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Erik Satie

Biography

Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (17 May 1866, Honfleur, France – 1 July 1925, Paris), who signed his name Erik Satie after 1884, was a French composer and pianist.

Satie was a colourful figure in the early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, Surrealism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd.

After his mother's death in 1872, Satie was sent (at age 6) back to Honfleur to live with his paternal grandparents. There he received his first music lessons from a local organist. In 1878, when he was 12 years old, his grandmother died, and the two brothers were reunited in Paris with their father, who remarried (a piano teacher) shortly afterwards. From the early 1880s onwards, Satie started publishing salon compositions by his step-mother and himself, among others. In 1879, Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he was soon labelled untalented by his teachers.

Satie moved from his father's residence to lodgings in Montmartre in 1887, when he became 21. By this time he had started what was to be an enduring friendship with the romantic poet Patrice Contamine, and had his first compositions published by his father. He soon integrated with the artistic clientele of the Le Chat Noir Café-cabaret, and started publishing his Gymnopédies.

An eccentric, Satie was introduced as a "gymnopedist" in 1887, shortly before writing his most famous compositions, the Gymnopédies. Later, he also referred to himself as a "phonometrician" (meaning "someone who measures sounds"), preferring this designation to that of "musician", after having been called "a clumsy but subtle technician" in a book on contemporary French composers published in 1911.

In addition to his body of music, Satie was "a thinker with a gift of eloquence" who left a remarkable set of writings, having contributed work for a range of publications, from the dadaist 391 to the American culture chronicle Vanity Fair. Although in later life he prided himself on publishing his work under his own name, in the late 19th century he appears to have used pseudonyms such as Virginie Lebeau and François de Paule in some of his published writings.


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