Erik Satie and the Subject(s) of Mobility

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Erik Satie’s music is habitually described in terms of stasis, hypnosis, monotony, even boredom. In the first half of this chapter I trace the discourse on Satie’s musical immobility from its emergence in the early twentieth century to its apotheosis in the post-war polemics of John Cage. For the American experimentalists, Satie’s directionless forms were an antidote to Beethovenian development. But this binary obscures more than it reveals. In the second half of the chapter I propose an alternative set of enquiries alive to the dynamics of motion, sensation and, above all, urban traffic. By considering a chanson about a bus journey (“L’Omnibus automobile”, 1906), a sonatine describing the working day (Sonatine bureaucratique, 1917), and an entr’acte featuring as many modes of transport as you could hope to fit on a cinema screen (Relâche, 1924), this chapter argues that Satie’s music frequently engaged with, and sometimes critiqued, the experience of quotidian mobility.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusic, Modern Culture and the Critical Ear
EditorsNicholas Attfield, Ben Winters
Place of PublicationOxon
ISBN (Electronic)9781315596891
ISBN (Print)9781472476869
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2017


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