Satie: Piano Music

Satie: Piano Music

Yitkin Seow (piano)


One day Erik Satie arranged a session of what he called musique d’ameublement. From various parts of the room came the sound of a piano, three clarinets and a trombone. They played, over and over again, scraps of music from anything that caught the players’ fancy. The bemused audience tried to listen politely. Satie bustled among them, pince-nez flashing, umbrella whirling. ‘Talk, go on talking’, he commanded; ‘keep moving. Whatever you do, don’t listen!’ The instruments honked and squeaked their disjointed phrases while people looked at each other in alarmed puzzlement. Musique d’ameublement, or ‘furnishing music’, was yet another of Satie’s avant-garde jokes. It served, he argued, the same purpose as heating, lighting and ventilation. It should be supplied in public buildings, in lawyers’ offices, in banks – no marriage ceremony would be complete without it. Sixty years later his idea is no longer thought crazy. Everywhere you go now you are accompanied by the ceaseless drool of background music: in pubs, restaurants, buses, clubs, funeral parlours. Thanks to Walkman earphones everyone can now carry their own ‘furnishing music’ about with them. Yesterday’s heresies become today’s accepted practice.

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