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A Mammal’s Notebook cover image A Mammal’s Notebook

Erik Satie

Eclectics & Heteroclites 15

Edited and Introduced by Ornella Volta. Translated by Antony Melville.
ISBN 978-1-900565-66-0
224pp 23.4x17.6cm
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The largest selection of the writings of Erik Satie yet to appear in English.

It’s not a question of Satie’s relevance. He’s indispensable. — John Cage

This is the largest selection of the writings of Erik Satie yet to appear in English.

Dismissed as an eccentric by many, Satie has come to be seen as a key influence on 20th- and 21st-century music. His compositions include, among other works, the ubiquitous Gymnopédies, the Three Pieces in the Form of a Pear and the Dadaist opera Relâche. In later life he gathered about him Les Six, the cream of the new generation of French composers, and his influence has since continued to widen; John Cage and the New York School composers hailed him as “indispensable”, and more recently certain of his pieces have been seen as prefiguring both minimalist and ambient music.

The appeal of his writings, however, goes far beyond their musical value. He is revealed as one of the most beguiling of absurdists, in the mode of Lewis Carroll or Edward Lear, but with a strong streak of Dadaism (a movement with which he collaborated to some extent). These poignant, sly and witty texts, often as short as his briefer musical pieces, embody all his contradictions. Included here are his “autobiographical” Memoirs of an Amnesic; the gnomic annotations to his musical scores (For the Shrivelled and the Dimwits, I have written a suitably ponderous chorale… I dedicate this chorale to those who do not like me); the publications of his private church; his absurdist play Medusa’s Snare; advertising copy for his local suburban newspaper; and the mysterious and elaborately calligraphed “private advertisements” found stuffed behind his piano after his death.

Satie referred to himself as “a man in the manner of Adam (he of Paradise)”, and added: “My humour is reminiscent of Cromwell’s. I am also indebted to Christopher Columbus, as the American spirit has sometimes tapped me on the shoulder, and I have joyfully felt its ironically icy bite.” He died as he lived: “without quite ceasing to smile.”

The smallest work by Satie is small the way a keyhole is small. Everything changes when you put your eye to it. — Jean Cocteau


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