Satie wrote underneath his self portrait :

"I have come into the world very young into an era very old."

This must have been the feeling of many struggling young modern artists of his time.
(Self portrait shown with the kind permission of Cramer & Co., London.)

His Life - Satie the Eccentric - Chronology - Sheet Music - Discography - My Tribute to Erik Satie
Analysis : Gnossienne 1 - Gnossienne 2   |   Other Satie sites - Jazclass
Article : The full stop in music

MP3s : Gnossienne 1 | Gnossienne 2 | Gnossienne 3 | Gymnopédie 1 | Other

Portrait of Satié - by Malveen White

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Alfred Erik Leslie Satie was born in Honfleur (Normandy) in 1866. He died in Paris in 1925, aged 59. His mother was Scottish and his father was a ship broker.

Satie (accent on second syllable !) started playing the piano at age 7. At 17 he spent a year at the Paris Conservatory.
At age 40, already an accomplished musician, he entered the Schola Cantorum. Here he studied counterpoint and orchestration with Albert Roussel and Vincent D'Indy. After three years he received a Diploma marked "tres bien" (very good).

Satie was a composer who feared no man, but always did what was right in his own eyes. He was an exponent of several important trends in the 20th Century composition including bitonality, polytonality, Jazz and non-triadic harmony.

profiles/satiewf1.jpg Erik Satie was one of music's great originals, both personally (an eccentric) and artistically.
From his one-room flat in a working class suburb in Paris, he exercised a remarkable influence over a generation of composers who were seeking to escape the dominance of Richard Wagner.

His simplicity, innovative harmonies, freedom of form and mastery of musical understatement made a strong impression on composers like Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and later younger composers such as Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud and John Cage.

His strange sparse scores, often written without bar lines in red ink are peppered with whimsical instructions : "Light as an egg", "Here comes the lantern", "Open your head", "Muffle the sound", "With astonishment", "Work it out yourself", etc.

Satie's early interest in Mediaeval music shows in the simple plainsong like harmonies of his famous 'Gymnopédies' and 'Gnossiennes'.

In the 1890s he became interested in, and the official composer for, the religio-mystic-occult sect of Rosicrusianism which also had a strong Mediaeval leaning.

He was a close friend of Claude Debussy, and during World War 1 also befriended Cocteau, Diaghilev and Pablo Picasso. This association with the Cubists resulted in the ballet 'Parade' which he wrote in collaboration with Cocteau and Picasso.

An eccentric and humorist, he was not well accepted by the general public of his time, despite efforts by Debussy and Ravel to promote his works.
During the past 20 years his work has received worldwide appreciation and the recognition of his importance he so truly deserves.

Here an excerpt of Gnossienne No.3.
Note the absence of bar lines and the simple but very effective triad chord harmony :

Audio 1
Gnossienne - Segment 1

The following part, also from Gnossienne No.3, shows Satie's use of innovative new scales. In this case a simple six tone scale, constructed with the notes from the E minor and F# major triad chords :

Audio 2
Gnossienne - Segment 2

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I keep reading and hearing new anecdotes about Satie's eccentricities. Here are a few :

  • In his one-room apartment Satie had two pianos. One placed on top of the other, their pedals interconnected.

  • His room must have been pretty crowded, for it also contained his collection of over 100 umbrellas !

  • Satie once bought 12 grey velvet suits at the same time. He used one suit at a time until it was worn out, then he put on a new one.
    When he died, there were 6 suits left in his room, along with his 100 umbrellas.

  • When Satie was criticised for writing music without form, he immediately composed "Trois Morceaux en forme de poire" (Three Pear-shaped Pieces. They are piano duets).

  • Satie's eccentricity lives on !
    His 180 notes long composition Vexations, directed to be repeated 840 times, was recorded in 1963 in New York. It took a relay team of 10 pianists over eighteen hours to perform. The longest piece ever written.

Satie about himself :

  • Before writing a work I walk around it several times accompanied by myself.

  • For a long time I have subscribed to a fashion magazine.
    I wear white socks and white vest, along with a velvet coat, soft felt hat and flowing tie (which is partially hidden by my beard), and on my nose I wear my pince-nez of course.

  • My expression is very serious. When I laugh, it is unintentional and I always apologies, very politely.

  • I breath carefully (a little at a time), and dance very rarely. When walking, I hold my ribs and look steadily behind me.

  • My only nourishment consists of food that is white (I spare you the details for it sounds revolting - MF.)

  • My doctor has always told me to smoke (cigarettes of course). He even explains himself : "Smoke, my friend. Otherwise someone else will smoke in your place."

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  • 1866 - Born in Honfleur (Normandy).

  • 1873 - starts learning the piano.

  • 1883 - enters the Paris Conservatory for one year.

  • 1883 - 1890 - His Early Period.
    Very interested in Mediaeval music, especially the Plainsong.
    Satie was a resident of Montmartre (until 1898) and a 'regular' at the Auberge du Clou where he met Debussy for the first time.
    He was rather poor especially in these early years, and worked as a Cafe pianist in Montmartre. Works from this Period include :

    • Ogives 1886, probably his first well known work.

    • Trois Sarabandes 1887. In 3/4 time written with bar lines. The 2nd dedicated to Maurice Ravel (Ref.1, 2, 6).

    • Trois Gymnopédies 1888. Also in 3/4. Probably inspired by a decoration on a Greek vase. The 1st and 3rd are his best known works today (Ref. 1, 2, 6, 7).
      Chord analysis : Gymnopédie No.1 - Gymnopédie No.2 - Gymnopédie No.3

    • Six Gnossiennes 1889 - 1893. Inspired by the excavations of the great palaces at Knossos on the Island of Crete (Ref. 1, 2, 6)
      Satie now abandons bar lines and time signatures altogether (until 1917), but the Gnossiennes have a basic 4/4 tempo. He also starts using humoristic directions to the performer on his scores.

  • 1891 - 1895 - Satie becomes the official composer for the religio-mystic-occult sect of Rosicrusianism, which had a strong Mediaeval leaning. Compositions for this sect include :

    • Prelude pour la porte heroique du ciel 1894. Composed for a Drama "esoterique" by Jules Bois. (Ref. 1)

    • Messe des Pauvres 1895.

      Later compositions, after leaving the sect :

    • Pieces Froids 1897. Consist of two groups of 3 compositions. (Ref. 1)

  • 1898 - Satie leaves Paris, and settles in a modest room (he nicknamed 'Notre Dame de Basses') in Arcueil where he lives until his death.

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Other famous composition (for which I have no date) include Socrate - Mercure - Musique d'Ameublement

The above list is by no means complete. If you have information of additional compositions please send it to me for inclusion on this page. Make sure to provide the name, approximate date and any comments where relevant.

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Many of Satie's works are relatively easy to play. Here are several good albums :

  1. Erik SATIE Piano Album, Edited by Maurice Rogers. J.B.C.&Co. 16361 , 1975 (Publ. J.B.Cramer & Co.Ltd., 23 Garrick Street, London, WC2E 9AX).
    This contains 34 Satie compositions, including his 3 Sarabandes, 3 Gymnopédies, 3 Gnossiennes, and Five Nocturnes.
    I used Satie's self portrait from the Front cover of this album, with the kind permission of J.B.Cramer & Co.

  2. Erik SATIE Selected Piano works, Edited by Warren Thomson. 1987 (Publ.Allans Publishing Pty Ltd. 165 Gladstone Street, South Melbourne)
    Contains 9 pieces : 3 Gymnopédies, 3 Gnossiennes, 3 Sarabandes.

  3. Erik SATIE Twenty Short Pieces for Piano (Sports et Divertissements) Illustrations by Charles Martin. 1982 (Publ. Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York N.Y. 10014)
    This is a true collectors item ! A black and white reprint of the original Limited Edition of 1925. (and affordable too at about US$5.-). The scores are hand written by Erik Satie himself, and full with comments and explanations.

  4. Erik Satie Saxophone Album, Arranged for Alto saxophone by James Rae. 1989. UE 18508L (Publ. Universal Edition (London) Ltd. London.).
    Ten pieces for Alto saxophone and piano. Includes Gymnopédies 1 and 3, and Gnossiennes 1 and 3.

  5. Gnossiennes 4, 5, 6 - Published by Broekman & Van Poppel B.V., Van Baerlestraat 92-94, 1071BB Amsterdam.

  6. Broekman & Van Poppel (Amsterdam) have also published the following piano albums of Satie Compositions :
    • Sonatine Bureaucratique
    • Three Gymnopedies
    • Gnossiennes 1, 2, 3
    • Poudre d'or
    • Three Sarabandes
    • Petite ouvre à danser
    • Rèverie
    • Piccadilly (marche)
    • Trois morceaux en forme de Poire (for 4 hands)

  7. Gymnopédies - Chord Analysis : by Michael Furstner 1998.
    Gymnopédie No.1 - Gymnopédie No.2 - Gymnopédie No.3

A recent release of Satie's writing, but words rather than notes this time is :
  • A Mammal's Notebook by Erik Satie. Edited by Ornella Volta.
    1996. Atlas Press, London. (Atlas Archive: documents of the avant-garde #5.)
    The book is a collection of Satie's writings, divided into three categories :
      1. written for performance (texts meant to be read by the performer, not to be read aloud)
      2. written for publication, and
      3. Satie's private writing, including the title piece, a mammal's notebook.

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When writing this profile I suddenly realised that I have only one disc with a few Satie numbers on it. I wondered why, for I am obviously a great fan of his.

But the answer is simple.
The best way to enjoy Satie is to play his music yourself. That's what I do. Everyone has his/her own interpretation of the music, and I believe that is what Satie himself would appreciate.

I will gradually put some recordings under this heading as I collect the info.
If you have some good recordings, please give me the details, and they will go on the list.

Here some references :

  • After the Rain...the soft sounds of Erik Satie - by Pascal Rogé
    (1995 Decca France/ 1996 Polygram Classics and Jazz)

  • Anything by Aldo Ciccolini is great.

  • Blood, Sweat & Tears - by the group 'Blood, Sweat & Tears'.
    "Variations on a Theme" -1st and 2nd Movements, adapted from 3 Gymnopédies opens the album. (Columbia 1969)

  • Erik Satie - by Anne Queffélec (piano) 1988.
    Includes : Six Gnossiennes, Three Gymnopédies, Véritables Préludes Flasques, Chapitres tournés en tout sens, Embryons desséchés, Je te veux, Sonatine bureaucratique, Heures séculaires et instantanées, Le Piccadilly, Avant-dernières pensées, Sports et Divertissements (Virgin Classics VC 7 90754-2)

  • Erik Satie - by Reinbert de Leeuw (piano).
    Includes : the Gnossiennes, 3 Gymnopédies, Ogives, 3 Sarabandes, Petite Ouverture à danser (Phillips Digital Classics 446 672-2)

  • Inside Satie - by Morgan Fisher (piano/synth.) improvisations on Satie, 1985.
    Re-released in 1999 on CD (in Japan) on the Tokuma On/Off label, catalog number TKCB71492.

  • Jacques Loussier Trio - plays the works of Erik Satie (Telarc Jazz - CD 83431).

  • Mal Waldron - Plays Erik Satie

  • Philippe Entremont - is very good (on Sony Classics).

  • Satie and Suzanne - "The Passion of a Lifetime". A film by by Tim Southam, music by Reinbert de Leeuw. VHS produced by Rhombus Media Inc. DDD (PAL/HHS 070 189-3 and NTSC/VHS 070 289-3)

  • Satie : 3 Gymnopedies and other piano works - by Pascal Rogé
    Includes the Gnossiennes 1 to 6, Je te veux, Le Piccadilly and more. Great interpretation of Satie's music. (1984 Decca/London Label #410220-2).

  • Satie & Me - Michael Furstner on Synthesiser, 2008. Includes three Gnossienes plus Gymnopédie 1.
    Availabler on CD or as free MP3 download

  • Satie on piano érard - by Patrick Cohen.
    Played on a piano érard from 1855, tuned by Aurelio Mozo Muelas.
    Recorded at Iglesia de San Miguel, Cuenca, Spain, December 1997. Edited by Glossa Music (gcd 920508).

  • Satie-Xophone - (Debussy, Ravel, Satie) by Nándor Götz (saxophone, clarinet) and Balázs Szokolay (piano) (1988 Hungaroton Classic, HCD 31763)
    Includes : Gymnopedia Nos 1-3, Gnossienne No1-6, Sonatine Bureaucratique

  • Sketches of Satie - by John Hackett (Flute) and Steve Hackett (Guitar)
    Camino Records - CAMCD20

  • Teodoro Anzelotti - Satie compositions by the Italian accordionist (Winter & Winter label)

  • The Electronic Spirit of Erik Satie - featuring 'The Moog Synthesizer with The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Orchestra' (1972, Deram/London #DES 18066)

  • The Evolution of Mann - Herbie Mann, with Bill Evans, Chuck Israels, and Paul Motian (Atlantic).

  • The Herbie Mann album - contains the Gymnopedies (Atlantic lp 1426).

  • The Magic of Satie - Jean-Yves Thibaudet's album of 2002 (London/Decca, catalog #470290), considered a marvelous interpretation of many of Satie's works.

  • The Minimalism of Erik Satie - Vienna Art Orchestra (Hat Art 6024).

  • The Velvet Gentleman - The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Orchestra, (Derham/London #DES 18036).

  • Through a Looking Glass - The Camarata Contemporary Chamber Orchestra, (Derham/London #DES 18052).

Please note
Jazclass only sells in house generated music education materials, and is not a retail outlet for records or music CDs. Two good online record and CD shops are : and

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In early 2005 I purchased a new keyboard (Korg PA 1x) and also a great PA system (Fender Passport PD250). This set up is powerfull enough to cover a large area outside or inside, yet compact enough to easily fit in my van when I travel and camp around Australia.
As a consequence I have, after 5 years rest, come out of retirement and started occasional performces again, and between April and August, 2005 I played Saturday evenings at the Darwin Sailing Club.

Sound check, before the public arrives
MP3s : Gnossienne 1 | Gnossienne 2 | Gnossienne 3 | Gymnopédie 1

A special feature of my performances was there that, exactly at the moment when the sun set under the horizon of Fannie Bay right in front of us, I played an interpretation and improvisation of one of Erik Saties compositions, usually one of his Gnossiennes or Gymnopedies.
A truly magical moment :

In front and around me and my keyboard
members and guests of the Darwin Sailing Club
sit underneath umbrellas and lush tropical palms along the beach front
overlooking the yachts moored in the near and middle distance . . . . .

Farther away on the horizon across the bay,
extends from the left the yellow & green finger of the Mendora peninsula.
It points to the centre, where the sun slowly descendes underneath the horizon,
accompagnied by the whistfull sounds of Satie's music . . . . .

At those magical moments Satie's spirit, I feel, is truly with us . . . .

My MP3 recording

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Other web pages with info on Erik Satie are :

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