A Day in the Life of Erik Satie

Basic Info


  • Instrumentation: voice & piano OR voice, violin & harp
  • Year of composition: 2018
  • Duration: 8 minutes

Listen


Many thanks to Jeremy Boulton for recording this to a digital accompaniment during the 2020 coronavirus lockdown. Check out Jeremy’s website here.

About


The memoir of French composer Érik Satie (1866-1925) includes a detailed account of his daily schedule. This schedule is rigorous and whimsical in equal measure, including “fencing” and “symphonic readings” among other activities. One can only guess how much of this schedule was ever enacted. However, Satie was genuinely eccentric, as evidenced by performance instructions on his music such as “like a nightingale with a toothache”.

A Day in the Life of Erik Satie is a setting of Satie’s full schedule for baritone voice. A performance lasts roughly seven and half minutes and may include theatrical elements such as props or costumes. My composition includes no quotes from Satie’s music. However, I hope it has a Satie-esque sensibility. The American John Cage (1912-1992) once observed that the rhythmic aspect of Satie’s work was more interesting at the scale of the phrase than the scale of the beat. This terrific insight was front of mind for me during the composition process.

I dedicate A Day in the Life of Érik Satie to my long-term mentor Don Kay. Satie writes that “an artist must measure their life”. True, but how? What does the life of an artist look like? I am grateful to Don for providing me with a great example. On the one hand he is known for his dedication, work ethic, and relentless output. But, just as importantly, he is known for his kindness, generosity and as someone who always has time for others.