Erik Satie

By: Jason Grote
May 17, 2009


Parisian composer ERIK SATIE (1866-1925) was the great-grandaddy of ambient music, the distant progenitor of Musak and smooth jazz. In 1902, Satie and friends introduced what they called “Furniture Music” in a Paris Gallery — that is, atmospheric music, intended to be ignored — and failed miserably when the crowd stopped looking at the art to watch the musicians. Like many a musical avant-gardist, the Velvet Gentleman’s influence outlived him. For example: Ravel and Debussy, Cage and Ono, Subotnik and Lesh, Eno and Aphex Twin, Kenny G and The Microsoft Windows ’95 Startup Sound. I dare any child of the 1970s to listen to Satie’s “Gymnopedie” compositions without being abruptly transported back to the torturous boredom of childhood, waiting for parents in a mattress store or watching a soft-focus TV-movie romance.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Maureen O’Sullivan, Michel de Certau, J.E. Spingarn.

READ MORE about members of the Anarcho-Symbolist Generation (1864–73).


HiLo Heroes, Music