Érik Satie: Sports et divertissements
A multimedia recital*


In early 1914, the publishing house Vogel approaches Igor Stravinsky with the request to write piano accompaniments for a series of illustrations by the well-known and fashionable illustrator Charles Martin. Their intention: to publish an album composed of images and music. Stravinsky asks for a commission that surpasses what Vogel is willing to offer, and the gig goes to Érik Satie, who in turn finds the offered fee too generous. Thus, between March 14 and May 20 1914 Satie (1866-1925) writes 21 musical miniatures, which he enriches with text that provides a pre-surrealist satirical commentary of Charles Martin's magnificent illustrations. WW1 breaks out in August of that year, and the publication of the album is delayed for eleven years; it is finally launched in 1925 with 225 printed copies.

The album Sports et divertissements (sports and entertainment) inspired us to give it a new and contemporary life. We have thus undertaken the project of animating the twenty pictorial scenes, accompanying them with sound effects, recording Satie's texts, and interpreting his 21 musical commentaries on the piano.

Érik Satie's artistic independence and originality inspired many of his contemporaries and numerous composers and musicians since his time. He anticipated dadaism, surrealism and minimalism, and his influence can be detected in the work of composers such as Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky to that of John Cage, Michael Nyman and Gavin Bryars. Through his ideas, his sense of humour and his music, his work is relevant to the present day, which the album Sports et Divertissement only shows too clearly. It essentially represents a satirical commentary of the bourgeoisie by highlighting its ridicule, its apoliticism, its boredom. Of the introductory chorale he wrote for the album, Satie says: "I have put into it all I know about Boredom". His social critique is more relevant today than ever, which becomes clear as the very same themes, sports and entertainment in today's media have incited less artistic commentaries by Noam Chomsky, according to whom their basic social function is to divert people from the issues that matter: "The best defense against democracy is to distract people", and "...I presume that's part of the reason why spectator sports are supported to the degree they are by the dominant institutions." (Noam Chomsky The Common Good, p. 53 and in Understanding Power, p. 100)


* Choral inappétissant (Unappetizing Chorale)
1) La balançoire (The Swing)
2) La chasse (The Hunting)
3) La comédie italienne (The Italian Comedy)
4) Le réveil de la mariée (The Awakening of the Bride)
5) Colin-Maillard (Blindman's Buff)
6) La pêche (The Fishing)
7) Le yachting (The Yachting)
8) Le bain de mer (The Ocean Bathing)
9) Le carnaval (The Carnival)
10) Le golf (The Golf)
11) La pieuvre (The Octopus)
12) Les courses (The Racing)
13) Les quatre-coins (Puss in the Corner)
14) Le pique-nique (The Picnic)
15) Le water-chute (The Shoot-the-Chutes)
16) Le tango (The Tango)
17) Le traîneau (The Sled)
18) Le flirt (The Flirt)
19) Le feu d'artifice (The Fireworks)
20) Le tennis (The Tennis)

Piano and conception antoine bustros
Animation martin st-pierre
Sound effects greg smith
Voice carl béchard

* Thanks for all the support that helped make this project possible to Simone Golde, Claude Labrie, Rodolfo Borello, Brian Wright, Mathieu Dionne, Laura Vannicola, Andreas Schwarzlose, Dave Sturton and the studio DNA, and Máire Noonan..