‘I breathe carefully (a little at a time). I dance very rarely. When walking I hold my sides and look straight behind me.' – Éric Alfred Leslie Satie.
Is there a consensus on the influence of Erik Satie (1866-1925), top, on jazz?
Listen to the mixtape of versions, above, and you may well think that there isn’t at all beyond surface similarities.
What a lot of listening here does indicate, however, is how many ‘sub-styles’ or ‘micro-styles’ within the universe of jazz when combined with a music from an outside non-jazz source the fusion certainly creates. Yes, some of it is awful or more diplomatically, a question of taste. On the other hand there are plenty of stimulating outcomes in such a mystical collision and it is easy to see how simpatico jazz particularly post-Bill Evans and Satie happen to be.
Satie leads directly to a style in jazz I’d call impressionism. Bruno Heinen perhaps is a chief exemplar at the moment, even Alfa Mist on his new solo piano album dips his toes in its waters while looking to ‘urban’ music mainly for his inspiration elsewhere.
But what is it about a 6 note minor scale with an exotic sound containing the sharpened 4 and natural 6 degrees that holds jazz artists captive?
The music of Erik Satie opened vistas. It can be said he influenced the impressionism of Debussy, a very different thing to what impressionism in jazz in 2020 amounts to.
In the 1960s Satie influenced John Cage who in turn was influential on 1970s UK free-improv. But Satie’s sense of space and melody is not a factor at all today in mainstream free-improv currents.
Satie had a good sense of humour to subvert our thinking. Using sound effects from real objects such as typewriters later became common place in musique concrète. Perhaps it is the minimalism of his approach that appeals most to space loving hush laden piano trios everywhere or those in thrall to Philip Glass or Steve Reich. In Satie’s ‘Vexations’ a section is repeated 840 times!
A connector from the 19th-century rules of classical music to the early-20th-century experiments with avant-garde minimalism the three Gymnopedies (1888), are how we mostly think of him and how improvisers first reach him even today.
His love of repetition in melody and chordal changes is relatable especially to pianists in a piano/bass/drums context and if they worship at the altar of Bill Evans the chances are they worship from time to time at the church of Satie too.
As for Brian Eno he took the idea of musical furniture and the idea that music ‘’would be a part of the surrounding noises” and created his ambient style on Music for Airports.
Ponder on this: where would the ‘‘ECM sound’’ be (should you deem it to exist beyond a convenient construct) if Erik Satie had not set the ball rolling in the first place? SG