Monday, February 19, 2007

Music while you work – Erik Satie

Although he’s known best for his Gymnopédies, Satie also wrote the less widely known Musique d’ameublement, or Furniture Music, which was to be played ‘for people not to listen to’, the forerunner of Muzak (only much, much nicer). There's an excellent description of this by Orenella Volta in the sleevenotes to the CD of Yutaka Sado conducting Satie and the Orchestre des Concerts Lamoureux (Erato) which features examples. "He had noticed – long before recorded music became widespread – that people liked to have a background of sound as they went about their daily tasks," she writes, "but without having to pay too much attention to it, so he came up with an idea for a consumer product especially designed with this in mind. It was to consist of pieces named after the places in which it was to be ‘used’ (a bistro, a living room, etc). Each piece was to be made up of an assortment of motifs taken preferably from the repertoire of composers one dislikes. These motifs were to be repeated an unspecified number of times – ‘as often as one wants, but no more than that’ – by musicians positioned in the four corners of the room. The aim was to surround the audience – who were busy talking, walking around, or drinking – with sound.’

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