Review: Strange Mr Satie (M. T. Anderson)

Like most people, my encounter with Erik Satie is limited to his piano works.  Stories about him being strange and surreal, I have perused here and there, but never read in details. This is thus a welcome, accessible introduction to Erik Satie—his biography in the form of an illustrated children’s book.

Erik Satie | Strange Mr Satie

Musicians and composers usually have the reputation of being strange—whether as part of their performance or not (and how do you draw the line, anyway).  The book slowly unfurls this idea of “strangeness”, by introducing Satie as

a child
with an old man’s smile

(which, by the way, immediately brings to mind, one dearly beloved, cemokot composer) who wanted

to make a new kind of music,
a kind of music both very young
and very old, very bold and very shy
that followed no rules
but its own.

LeChatNoir Erik Satie

Grand sweeping staircases, wooden chairs, a black cat, hidden bones of a poet, shadow puppets—definitely a wonderful illustrated book material, a place you wish could have just materialised right in front of you.

Satie was a child, frenetic, fascinating, “obnoxious”, with “odd habits” like scraping his body with a piece of stone instead of taking baths (but don’t people have their own quirks?).

Erik Satie Throwthegirlfriend
Satie threw his ex-acrobat girlfriend out of the window. Such a Punch & Judy.

When will people get out
of the habit
of explaining everything?

The book ends with a brief author’s note explaining Satie, and a recommendation of further reading and listening. A book that will be of interest to young and old.

Anderson_MT_Strange_Mr_SatieTitle: Strange Mr. Satie
Author: M. T. Anderson
Illustrator: Petra Mathers
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