Debussy: Musician of France

By Victor I. Seroff | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
BOHEMIAN PERIOD -- ERIK SATIE

Debussy, as I have said before, preferred the company of literary men to that of musicians, yet his meeting with Erik Satie at about this time ( 1891) led to a lifelong friendship. Four years younger than Debussy, Erik Satie was then better known for what he said about music than for what he actually put down on paper. And there was good reason for this, for, as a close friend put it, after suddenly interrupting his studies at the Paris Conservatory at the age of nineteen, he found himself in the situation of "a man who knew only thirteen letters of the alphabet and decided to create a new literature." But his bantering spirit, his wit and practical jokes were an inexhaustible source of merriment for a small group of Bohemian comrades-in-arms and he won their acclaim as a prominent composer.

In defiance of the established rules, Satie left the Conservatory and the respectable bourgeois home of his parents -- his father was a music publisher -- to "live a life of his own," as young girls would say. He moved to 6 rue Cortot at the top of Montmartre to a room the size of a wall closet, but with a superb view "all the way to the Belgian border." There he "worked in peace" and, with a few manuscripts under his arm, he would majestically descend to daily rounds of publishers and nocturnal visits in cafés with his friends. He had already composed his Sarabandes and Gymnopédies on which, even his severest critics admit, rest his reputation as a pioneer in modern music.

Debussy must have heard about him from their mutual friend

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