Saturday, January 07, 2006

Act III: Erik Satie

We meet on a sidewalk one day in December and after four-and-a-half (or so) minutes, he tells me that I am drôle. I blush, immensely flattered, for I aspire to be nothing less. He and I share a low tolerance for mediocrity--in art, life, music, wine--and I remember that he once critiqued a young artist for her self-effacing diminutiveness. [Elargissez votre impression!] My own aesthetic took deep root after I heard that. (It became independent.) Though he wears a white cap, white stockings and a white waistcoat, I think nothing of it (devils wear white, you know) and invite him over for dinner.

He sits at my little table while I prepare the meal: pasta with coconut and camphorised sausage; a certain kind of fish (without the skin); cotton salad with grated bones. He eats "only white victuals," so I must tease him with a simple question, "Which do you prefer: Music or Ham?" He [with great seriousness and courteous gravity] responds, "In Art, I like simplicity; the same goes for cookery. I am more inclined to applaud a perfectly roasted leg of lamb than a subtle concoction of meat concealed beneath the clever make-up applied by a master of sauces--if you will permit the image."

He speaks spaciously, almost arrhythmically: the drawn-out silences before he begins a sentence are neither inattentive hesitations nor deliberately calculated thoughtfulness. I see my questions and his responses punctuated by the dashes and ellipses I used to pen erratically in sixth grade, sometimes .......... or ----- or ...... (my teacher ringed them in red again and again) but very rarely the proper ... [arrêt] I worry that he is bored but then decide to learn him like a piece of music, his music, where the phrases meander and dovetail and--interrupted by bizarre texts and fantastic performance indications, even cubist pictures--cadence in completely irregular and unpredictable ways. I soon realize I've never been more engaged in a conversation. Together we lament the lost art of reading aloud and then [en un souffle] disagree like old friends: "I am not a café man; I prefer Brasseries." "No!" "Yes." The conversation segues easily from talk of Debussy's piano pieces (how they strike "fairy-like poses at [the] finger-tips") to open admiration for Stravinsky's orchestrations (never "woolly," never "fog"). Another bottle of wine is opened [very white, he insists] and I boldly demand that he explain his [pale and priest-like] superstitions. White food, white wine, what else?

He leans in [it’s very hot] and brushes my knee with his hand,
The 'pleasures of the table' are far from displeasing to me--on the contrary; & for 'the table' I have a sort of respect--or even more. Whether round or square, I connect it with 'holy service' & it impresses me like a grand altar...I venture to say. Yes.
We sweep the dishes, the silverware, and the glasses--all of it--to the floor and make love madly [pleasurably, without shyness] on the tabletop. In the morning, when the perpetual tango finally finds an end, we drink the rest of the delicious white Bordeaux and amuse each other with absurd (we think them quite witty) remarks. "Last year, I gave several lectures on 'Intelligence & Musicality among Animals' ... Today I shall speak about 'Intelligence & Musicality among Critics' ... It is more or less the same theme, with modifications, of course." "A critic's brain is a store--a department store." "They are always very sweet to the Ladies--but keep the Gentlemen at a distance, calmly." [we laugh without anyone knowing]

Suddenly, he tells me that I am an awful lover [sec comme un coucou] but proceeds to smother me with ardent kisses anyway. [Il caresse son or. Il le couvre de baisers.] "Let us move on. I will come back to that." He has thus composed our time together like one of his unassuming musical fragments, riddled with mischievous nonsense and seductive poetry, all intended to remain strictly between the two of us. (I risk his curses revealing even this much.) At the door, parting, he leans over and whispers in my ear, "Behave yourself please: a monkey is watching you," and I have to smile. He, of course, turns casually on his heel and withdraws [plein de subtilité, si vous m’en croyez] into ... the snow ..........

A Work, Cited--
Ornella Volta, ed. A Mammal's Notebook: Collected Writings of Erik Satie. London: Atlas Press, 1996.


Trés blanc.

Avec plaisir et sans timidité.

Riez sans qu'on le sache.

Soyez convenable, s'il vous plait: un singe vous regarde.

Suivant le cas, on peut finir ici.

--Erik Satie

By Blogger Heather, at 7:18 PM  

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