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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Contemporary criticism and ’Le cas Satie’ Sandberg-Brennan, Karin


While scholars recognize Satie's important influence on the music of our century, the extent and specific nature of his influence has yet to be defined. Focusing on analyses of his personality and his music, modern literature continually neglects to study Satie's historical importance. It is his so-called bizarre and eccentric personality and the pretended simplicity of his musical style that have, in general, attracted modern authors' attention. Consequently, a controversy known as "Le Cas Satie" has developed: How could an eccentric composer whose music is frequently considered inconsequential, have truly exerted the great influence attributed to him in modern literature? If Satie's historical position is to be understood, modern literature's portrayal of the composer must be examined for accuracy, and the extent of his impact must be clarified. This study makes a contribution in this direction by examining criticism (in music reviews, art and theatrical journals and in daily newspapers) published in Paris from 1892 to 1930. Our thesis first surveys this criticism, familiarizing the reader with it and revealing how widely Satie was known through the press. An analysis of the criticism then demonstrates how Satie was generally regarded by his contemporaries. Three facets of the composer are discussed: his personality, his humor, and his music. We learn that the contemporary view of Satie was that of a respected composer, unlike the typical modern depiction of him as an eccentric. Furthermore, an examination of contemporary comments about Satie's significance provides insights into his historical position, for they reveal that it was not his music, but rather the influence of his musical compositions and his aesthetics that were considered his most important contributions. By defining those areas in which Satie was believed to be most significant, we begin to understand the extent and specific nature of his influence.

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