Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (Honfleur, 17 May 1866 – Paris, 1 July 1925) was a French composer and pianist. Starting with his first composition in 1884, he signed his name as Erik Satie.
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 “phonometrograph” or “phonometrician” (meaning “someone who measures (and writes down) 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 also left a remarkable set of writings, having contributed work for a range of publications, from the dadaist 391 to the American Vanity Fair. Although in later life he prided himself on always publishing his work under his own name, in the late nineteenth century he appears to have used pseudonyms such as Virginie Lebeau and François de Paule in some of his published writings.
Satie was a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde. He was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd.
Satie as precursor: the only “precursor” discussion Satie was involved in during his lifetime was whether or not he was a precursor of Claude Debussy, but many would follow. Over the years Satie would be described as a precursor of movements and styles as varied as Impressionism, neo-classicism, Dada, Surrealism, atonalism, minimalism, conceptual art, the Theatre of the Absurd, muzak, ambient music, multimedia art, etc., and as taking the first steps towards techniques such as prepared piano and music-to-film synchronisation. Further, Satie became one of the first musicians to perform a cameo appearance — he was in a 1924 film by René Clair (see: a sample of the film (rm format) and the Entr’acte article).
All by himself Satie appears to have been the precursor to half of the avant-garde movements of the 20th century. Many of these “precursorisms” are possibly based on quite superficial resemblances only, while, on the other hand, he undeniably inspired and influenced many later artists, and their ideas. According to Milhaud, Satie had “prophesied the major movements in classical music to appear over the next fifty years within his own body of work.”
- From Wikipedia