Erik Satie

Biography

Few composers deserve the phrase "ahead of his time" more than the French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). Ideologically committed to a life of poverty, the composer removed his art from the unconscious confinements of class and the corruptible influences of popular acceptance. Though he did study briefly at the Conservatoire de Musique et de Declamation, Satie was primarily self-taught, a luxury that freed him to explore ideas as he found them. As a result, he broke with convention to such an extent as to become the conceptual godfather of the twentieth century's Avant-Garde movement. In an environment where Impressionism and Wagnerism ruled, Satie injected his work with dry, ironic wit and deceptively simplistic progressions. Yet underneath his seemingly casual whimsy lie crisp conceptual models explored with such discipline as to become vaguely spiritual. "Trois Gymnopedies," one of his most well-known works, depicts ancient Greek gymnastic exercises. "Vexations," made famous by a John Cage performance, consists of 152 notes and is to be played 840 times -- a process which lasts over eighteen hours. Godfather of the Avant-Garde, indeed.
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