Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Satie's music, in sound and aesthetics, was fundamentally different from the prevailing 19th century German school that prized ideals of continuity and development. It is music as sound per se (Musique D'ameublement, i.e., "Furniture Music" or "Music for Furnishing," 1920). In Musiques Intimes et Secretes ("Intimate and Secret Music") and the famous "Vexations" (from Pages Mystiques, 1892-1895), Satie describes the conceptual nature of human mental activity and then requires the performers to experience and scrutinize, simultaneously, the exact moments of shifting psychological states. "Vexations" is a short musical passage of neutral feeling (augmented and diminished chords) repeated 840 times very slowly. Satie emphasizes natural and spontaneous mentation apart from "ideas" in The Dreaming Fish, Heures Séculaires et Instantanées ("Ordinary and Snapshot Times"), and Véritables Préludes Flasquers: Pour un Chien ("Authentic Flabby Preludes: For a Dog"). Ironic titles and commentaries poke fun at pomposity, as in Le Duc de Connaught et le President aux Manoeuvers ("The Duke of Connaught and the President on Maneuver") and Enfantines ("Infantile Pieces," 1913, which go by such titles as "The Bean-King's War Chant"; "Importune Peccadillos, I"; "Being Jealous of His Comrade with the Big Head, II"; "Him Eat His Cookie, III"; and "Taking Advantage of His Corns to Steal His Hoop"). Satie's religious feeling was of a mystical, pre-clerical kind, expressed in works such as Première Pensée Rose + Croix ("First Rosey Thought + Cross," 1891, French word play on "Rosicrucians"); the beautiful and compassionate Messe des Pauvres ("Mass for the Poor," 1893-1895); and the moving Socrate (1918) on the death of Socrates based on texts by Plato. Satie invented many musical techniques: the use of whole-tone scales, chords built in fourths, pattern melodies, unresolved "dissonances" used for their value as sounds, "open" large forms without contrasting or developing sections, and others. Perhaps more important, he was the first conceptual composer.