Éric Alfred Leslie Satie was born on the 17th May 1866 in Honfleur, France. For most of his life he was relatively unknown to much of the musical world, certainly outside of Paris. Satie was an undistinguished student: a bohemian in nature, he was sceptical of established ideas and authorities, and found the conventional methods of study restrictive and unengaging. He was considered lazy by his teachers, who misunderstood much of his work, and as a result did not rate him highly. In later life, Satie found that his lack of theoretical knowledge limited him and so returned to school in 1905. He never achieved financial success, and only started receiving notable attention for his work at the age of 45 after his music was championed by more established composers. His profile then grew with the controversy that surrounded his ballet ‘Parade’, and this paved the way for his later theatrical career. He died in 1925, aged just 59.
Despite the lack of recognition both during his life, and to a lesser extent in the years subsequent to his death, as a composer, Satie helped shape the music of the 20th century. He influenced contemporaries such as Debussy and Ravel, and was a mentor and inspiration for ‘Les Six’; a group of young composers who saw in him “l’esprit nouveau”. He was a precursor to many of the movements that followed him, such as minimalism, avant-garde and even jazz. Satie also contributed several pieces to the piano repertoire that have become favourites of performers and audiences alike. Nevertheless, his work remained widely underappreciated until the middle of the 20th century when composers such as John Cage started acknowledging the influence he had on them. It is perhaps only in recent decades, when we have been able to look back at the 20th century and trace his influence on composers such as Cage, Stravinsky and Reich, that Satie’s deeply original music has started to receive the attention it deserves.