Saturday, July 14, 2012
Eric Satie's Work Habits & Music
On most mornings after he moved to Arcueil, Satie would return to Paris on foot, a distance of about ten kilometres, stopping frequently at his favourite cafés on route. Accoring to Templier, "he walked slowly, taking small steps, his umbrella held tight under his arm. When talking he would stop, bend one knee a little, adjust his pince-nez and place his fist on his lap. The he would take off once more with small deliberate steps."
When he eventually reached Paris he visited friends, or arranged to meet them in other cafés by sending pneumatiques. Often the walking from place to place continued, focussing on Montmarte before the war, and subsequently on Montparnasse. From here, Satie would catch the last train back to Arcueil at about 1.00am, or, if he was still engaged in serious drinking, he would miss the train and begin the long walk home during the early hours of the morning. Then the daily round would begin again.
Roger Shattuck, in conversations with John Cage in 1982, put forward the interesting theory that "the source of Satie's sense of musical beat--the possibility of variation within repetition, the effect of boredom on the organism--may be this endless walking back and forth across the same landscape day after day . . . the total observation of a very limited and narrow environment." During his walks, Satie was also observed stopping to jot down ideas by the light of the street lamps he passed.
Robert Orledge, Satie Remembered. French translations by Roger Nichols. (Thanks to Tom Cunliffe.)
See also: "A Day in the Life of a Musician" by Erik Satie
I've read other places that the rhythm of walking jogs the brain into creativity. I agree with that whole-heartedly, as I can attest to that happening often as I'm out walking our dirt roads in South Georgia. I used to carry pen and paper with me to jot down ideas as they came. Now I use my Iphone the same way. What a wonderful invention!
The music of the Baroque and Classical periods will do it too; especially the Baroque. It's metered and same-rhythm qualities spur the mind into creative mode. I listen to this kind of music early in the morning to get into a steady work rhythm. Later in the afternoon as I begin to unwind, I'll listen to soft Celtic or what's labeled 'New Age' music to quiet down my mind and body.
The music on my piano above is by Satie. I heard it on Sirius Radio, found out what it was, and went to FreeScores.com where I was able to print it off for FREE. It's a pretty easy piece to learn. The melody is so lovely and haunting. I just had to learn it.