In the midst of an art opening at a Paris gallery in 1902, Ambient music was born. Erik Satie and his cronies, after begging everyone in the gallery to ignore them, broke out into what they called Furniture Music–that is, background music–music as wallpaper, music to be purposely not listened to. The patrons of the gallery, thrilled to see musicians performing in their midst, ceased talking and politely watched, despite Satie’s frantic efforts to get them to pay no attention.
– Kenneth Goldsmith: Flabby Preludes to a Dog – An Erik Satie Primer
We must bring about a music which is like furniture–a music, that is, which will be part of the noises of the environment, will take them into consideration. I think of it as melodious, softening the noises of the knives and forks at dinner, not dominating them, not imposing itself. It would fill up those heavy silences that sometimes fall between friends dining together. it would spare them the trouble of paying attentiopn to their own banal remarks. And at the same time it would neutralize the street noises which so indiscreetly enter into the play of conversation. To make such music would be to respond to a need.
— Erik Satie, as quoted by Ferdinand Léger. In Erik Satie by Alan Gillmor
“In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities” (Pour se jouer 840 fois de suite ce motif, il sera bon de se préparer au préalable, et dans le plus grand silence, par des immobilités sérieuses). – Erik Satie
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Here’s an article from the New Yorker on Vexations: A Dangerous and Evil Piano Piece – Sam Sweet. September 9, 2013 “Those who sit for all eight hundred and forty repetitions tend to agree on a common sequence of reactive stages: fascination morphs into agitation, which gradually morphs into all-encompassing agony. But listeners who withstand that phase enter a state of deep tranquility. “Vexations” veterans often say that reëntry into the natural world is thrilling because they are able to hear sound as if for the very first time. Of course, not everyone gets there. An Australian pianist named Peter Evans abandoned a 1970 solo performance after five hundred and ninety-five repetitions because he claimed he was being overtaken by evil thoughts and noticed strange creatures emerging from the sheet music. “People who play it do so at their own peril,” he said afterward.”