Erik Satie

Today Erik Satie is recognized as one of the best French composers. Historians believe that his work influenced various movements such as Surrealism and minimalism. Keep reading to learn more about this famous composer.

Early Life

Erik Satie was born on May 17, 1866, in Honfleur, France. Satie’s family moved to Paris when he was four years old; however, he returned to Honfleur after his mother died when he was six. He and his brother, Conrad, lived with their grandparents. During this time Satie began his first music lessons. After Satie’s grandmother died he and his brother returned to their father in Paris. At this point, Satie was 12 years old. Satie’s father eventually remarried a piano teacher. A year after returning to Paris, Satie gained admission to the Paris Conservatory. However, his teachers were unimpressed with his piano playing, so he had to leave the conservatory. He returned to the conservatory when he was 19, but still, he didn’t have any success. Although Satie’s teachers dismissed his playing ability, they did acknowledge that he had a talent for composition.

Publishing Career

In 1887 Satie moved to Montmartre and shortly after published his first compositions. While living in Montmartre, he met Claude Debussy. Later in Satie’s life, Debussy would take his Gymnopédies and transform them into orchestral works to help earn Satie recognition and money.

Cabaret and School

Satie began to work as a cabaret pianist in 1899. He didn’t particularly enjoy the music he played, but it was a steady source of income. Satie returned to school in 1905 to study counterpoint. The move surprised many of Satie’s friends, but he continued his studies for five years.


Over time many of Satie’s older pieces became popular. However, people tended to not pay as much attention to his newer work. As a result, Satie sought out younger artists who would appreciate his newer pieces. One such artist, Jean Cocteau, brought him into contact with artists like Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque. Starting in 1919, Satie associated with the founder of Dada, Tristan Tzara and André Breton, the founder of Surrealism.

Final Years

Satie drank heavily throughout his life. This habit contributed to his death on July 1, 1925, at the age of 59. While alive Satie supposedly never had any of his friends visit his apartment. After he died his friends discovered numerous unpublished compositions as well as compositions that Satie thought he had lost.