Seldom has a man had such an influence on so many fields and yet been so little known by name. You have probably heard Erik Satie's haunting music for all of your life, but never known who composed it. His exquisite Gymnopedies were an essential part of creating the melancholy and enigmatic atmosphere of films like My Dinner with Andre, Man on a Wire, Being There and The Painted Veil.
As a composer, he had a profound influence on Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, John Cage, Philip Glass and the entire minimalist movement.
Of equal importance, Satie is considered the grandfather of the surrealist movement of art, film and literature. The list of painters who were influenced by his ideas reads like a "Who's Who" of 20th century art, with Magritte, Picasso and Dali all paying homage to him through their work. Picasso and Satie even collaborated together with Jean Cocteau for an avante-garde ballet, Parade, which featured live zoo animals.
Sunday will mark the birth of the man known as The Velvet Gentleman. His signature gray suit and umbrellas (he had over 20 identical ones) were a hallmark in any weather in Montmartre and known to all the young Bohemians of Paris who gathered to drink a glass of absinthe, read his manifestos and listen to his witty pronouncements on esoteric religion, mythology and the creative life.
Satie's sense of the absurd was legendary. His friend Claude Debussy once accused his music of being "shapeless". In response, Satie dedicated to him his next work, called sardonically, Three Pieces in the Shape of A Pear- a series of five (and not three) piano duets.
In that playful spirit, I invite you to an online ZOOM surreal salon for Satie the day AFTER his birthday, on Monday, May 18 at 11 am PST. During our 1 hour and 17 minute salon, I will tell my favorite Satie stories, play live my favorite pieces like the Gnossiennes and the Gymnopedies, and trace his imprint on 20th century art as we discover how some of the most important threads throughout culture are often the ones we don't actually know by name.
For those of you who might want a "jump start" on this evocative man, I suggest watching the video Satie and Suzanne, a suitably dreamy film layered with his piano music and dance choreographed by Cirque du Soleil that evokes his one and only ill-fated romance with trapeze artist and artist Suzanne Valadon