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Velvet Gentleman

Nick Richardson: Erik Satie, 3 June 2015

A Mammal’s Notebook: The Writings of Erik Satie 
edited by Ornella Volta, translated by Antony Melville.
Atlas, 224 pp., £17.50, June 2014, 978 1 900565 66 0
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... One​ thing everyone knows about Erik Satie is that he was an eccentric. There are many kinds of eccentric and Satie was most of them. He presented himself as a nutty professor figure, not a composer but a ‘gymnopedist’ and ‘phonometrician’. He dined – or so he claimed in his autobiography – only on ‘food that is white: eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary, 15 December 2016

The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... including gongs, tin cans, drums, buzzers, radios and coils of wire. Cage’s first mention of Erik Satie comes in a letter from 1944 to the dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, Cage’s partner. Socrate, Satie’s piece for voice and piano, he enthuses, is ‘an incredibly beautiful work. There is no ...

The Ultimate Magical Synaesthesia Machine

Rob Young: Painting Music, 22 September 2011

The Music of Painting 
by Peter Vergo.
Phaidon, 367 pp., £39.95, November 2010, 978 0 7148 5762 6
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... as Things Seen from Right and Left (Without Spectacles) and Chapters Turned in All Directions, Erik Satie (who once declared a desire for his music to resemble perfume) implied that he was mimicking in music the smashed perspectives of Cubism, but they were essentially moody miniatures for piano and violin. Respighi’s The Pines of Rome called for a ...

The Cool Machine

Stephen Walsh: Ravel, 25 August 2011

Ravel 
by Roger Nichols.
Yale, 430 pp., £25, April 2011, 978 0 300 10882 8
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... Mixing these influences together, and adding one or two other ingredients (the café music of Erik Satie, whom Ravel met in 1893; the fashionable hispanism of Chabrier and Bizet, which I like to think stirred his Basque blood), he was able to concoct a state-of-the-art ‘French idiom’. One might even speculate that, like many repressed artists ...

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