Written by Ilona Ronay
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Topics: Music, Philadelphia

Sunday, 20 June 2004

image for Code Cracked in Erik Satie's Piano Music
Looks Like Elton John But Really is Erik Satie

Philadelphia, PA--A doctoral-level classical piano student as the Curtis Institute here in Philadelphia has discovered the true meaning of Satie's directions to musicians.

Satie, a reclusive and unusual French composer who had more than 40 identical gray umbrellas and yet would not open even one to protect himself from the rain, incorporated totally confusing and completely unclear directives into his piano pieces, thus rendering several generations of piano students and teachers frustrated, tense, and suicidal and craving bacon cheeseburgers.

"That's the main reason I chose to concentrate on Chopin," said Martha Argerich, one of the greatest contemporary pianists. "How was I supposed to interpret a statement such as 'Be radiant' or "So as to get a hollow'? With Chopin, it's all brooding and longing and crashing down on the keys. Very simple."

Lang Lang, another famous pianist, could not comment in depth because he was busy smiling and playing the Rach 3 simultaneously.

Loren Maazel, conductor of the New York City Philharmonic, agreed with Argerich. "If I had to conduct an entire orchestra following Satie's instructions,I'd go mad," he admitted. "Directions like loud, soft, and repeat are one thing. How am I supposed to convey "Open your mind and bury the sound' to the tuba player?"

Most piano students have thus tended to ignore or loosely interpret Satie's eccentric instructions, such as smiling broadly when being directed to 'Be radiant' or never leaving the piano when being directed to 'Don't go out!.'

"When I gave it some serious thought, I realized that Satie wasn't referring to the music at all," said Roseanna Danna, the Curtis student. "I was a med student before I switched to music, and I realized that Satie was exhibiting all the classic, full-blown symptoms of multiple personality disorder and schizophrenia. He was talking to another person, probably his mother or his therapist-- or maybe even to his umbrellas."

Once Ms. Danna realized that the directives had nothing to do with the pieces, she felt free to play them any way she chose. "It was so liberating!" she exclaimed. "It's hard enough following all Satie's totally weird atonal scales without trying to be radiant at the same time. Besides, we doctoral-level students always have to wear black to perform in--black and more black. How the hell are we supposed to feel radiant if we always have to wear black? Even our umbrellas have to be black. Even Satie got to carry a gray one."

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The story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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