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First Advisor

Mary A. Wischusen


Erik Satie was one of the most eccentric and imaginative composers of fin-de-siècle France. In Montmartre, and later in Arcueil, he lived as a bohemian, challenging age-old musical traditions with fresh innovative ideas inspired by modern literary and artistic philosophies and aesthetics. Satie's compositions exemplify an avant-garde trend of thought found first in the literary works of French bohemian writers, which then transcended into the visual realm. Satie translated Cubist and Dadaist philosophies into musical terms, collaborating with the movement's most important artists. He was a multi-talented, multi-faceted composer who contributed largely to the aesthetics of twentieth-century music, art, and poetry.

Discussions surrounding the influences and inspirations behind his works have varied; however, most are in agreement that his interests in modern literature and art played an integral role in forming the basis for his musical aesthetic. Much of the published work discussing Satie has tended to merely mention or briefly discuss his the literary and visual influences; therefore, there was a need for a concise volume of work that specifically targets these influences. To better understand the eccentric man and his innovative compositions, one must fully grasp his influences and inspirations. This thesis is a comprehensive study that specifically discusses the leading literary figures and artists as well as their philosophies and theories that were the most influential on particular works in Erik Satie's oeuvre. In order to further this study I had to address particular areas, including Satie's biography, background information on the writers and artists who had the most influence on Satie's works, and the specific works that exemplified these influences. The bulk of this thesis is in Chapter Four and Chapter Five, which delves deep into as many of Satie's works that I could find that had significant literary or visual leanings; I found that the vast majority of his works fell into at least one if not both of the categories. With so much supporting evidence and so many works that were influenced or inspired by literary or visual elements, I feel that this thesis can contribute to a better understanding of Satie's musical aesthetic and therefore, oeuvre.

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