Appreciating Satie’s Mysticism: Erik Satie and the Convergence of Mysticism and Humour


Appreciating Satie's Mysticism: Erik Satie and the Convergence of Mysticism and Humour

Forest Muran

Truly, the man is a problem. Solution will come, but the time is not yet.
W. Wright Roberts

From his essay “The Problem of Satie”, 19231

Satie has always been considered an anomaly, and it has been notoriously difficult for many to assign him a place in music history. Was Satie a humourist who repurposed whimsical cabaret techniques for the purpose of composing “serious music”? Was he a third-rate composer who shoved his way into the musical canon through his cynical humour? Or was Satie perhaps a martyr for true art, who sacrificed public acclaim and a comfortable life in order to pursue his own creative whimsy and unique artistic vision? Of particular difficulty has been the activity of trying to reconcile Satie the “humourist” with what has been called Satie the “mystic”. It has often been difficult for many taking part in the discussion on Satie to discern whether the often reticent composer was composing his so-called “mystical works” in earnest, or simply testing out a musical joke. Many commentators even demonstrate a hesitancy in taking Satie's oeuvre too seriously, possibly out of fear of learning they have been duped by the old jokester.

The more I have looked into the question of Satie's humorous style, the more it has become clear that it is a mistake to try and lock Satie into the category of either “mystic” or “humorist”. Indeed, the great bulk of Satie's creative career was spent playing with the boundaries between these concepts, testing their limits. To try and define Satie's work as either a genuine product of artistic expression, or as an ironic commentary on the nature of European art is indeed to miss the point. Satie deliberately blurs the lines between the comic and the serious, the profane and the sacred. Satie plays with religious and musical conventions in a way that, by making light of hundreds of years of historical forms, allows him to open up the possibility of an original, creative expression which takes place beyond the iron qualifications of mere mysticism and humour.

The Satie Problem

Many writers have been puzzled, and some perhaps even annoyed, by the ambiguities found in Satie's work. While there are many who saw Satie as a figure of mystery, writing compositions that harnessed a unique kind of musical mysticism, many also considered him to be a mere musical joker, doing his best to mock a world of serious art, into which he found it so difficult to break. For example, after attending a concert featuring some of Satie's music, believed by Orledge to be the notable Ravel performance of Le Fils des Étoiles, Satie's friend Koechlin wrote that he was “at last able to appreciate the value of Satie's mysticism”.2 Gillmor, however, among others, has called Satie's religious mysticism “naive”.3 Satie's younger sister, in contrast, wrote, “my brother was always difficult to understand. It doesn't seem that he was ever perfectly normal. And he was a spiritist rather than a true mystic.”4 Chennevière, however, believing that Satie's feelings of inadequacy led him to try and escape engaging with the world by ridiculing it, argued that “from the pseudo-mystic [Satie] seemed to be at the beginning of his life, he soon became a mere mystifier”.5 Harsher still, Roberts, in the same essay quoted at the beginning of this paper, mentions how, “in England the chief idea current about Satie is that he is a musical humorist of a childish and affected type.”6 It is difficult to find two sources which agree on the character of Satie's work, even at the most general level. He is always portrayed at some ambiguous point along a scale spanning “mystic” on one end and “humourist” on the other. But in general, it seems that the world is unable to make up its mind whether to take Satie seriously or not.

Naturally, attitudes toward Satie have evolved, and he is in many ways treated far more as a serious composer today than he was during the first half of the 20th century. Even so, the current respect for Satie the composer is qualified by a lingering suspicion that, even at his seemingly most profound, Satie might still be trying to dupe us – and for good reason, too, since Satie was notorious for mistrusting music critics, and it is unsurprising that he should create his works in such a way that anyone undertaking a serious analysis should soon find themselves the object of the composer's ridicule. This cautious attitude has led to mixed approaches to Satie's music, even today. For instance, Gillmor writes how Satie's infamous work Vexations may be “one of Satie's greatest leg-pulls,” and that it is “ironic that the little work's contemporary champions - most of whom come from the ranks of high-culture experimental music - should approach this most mystical of Satie's pages with a pious reverence of almost Péladanesque fervour”.7 I argue, however, that to agonize over whether Satie is trying to fool us or not, is to fundamentally misunderstand Satie's stylistic world, which disregards the boundaries between the sacred and the secular, the mystical and the humorous, the serious and the popular. Satie's originality lies in how he paves the way for a style of Western art music that is allowed to play with these conventions. Indeed, Satie's work derives much of its charm through its illumination of the arbitrary aesthetic distinctions within the musical culture from which they have been created. Satie is a master of parodying the musical system that laid the foundations for his own.

It is important to note that Satie, despite his tendency to play the clown and revel in biting satire, nevertheless entertained a life-long interest in religion, and in mysticism. That said, Satie's originality - “in full anarchy, in entire originality”8 - was not limited to his music, and it is obvious that his relationship with religion was also far from typical. Gillmor writes about how Satie, in his early twenties, began “to effect a pseudomystical posture. He spoke a great deal at this time of 'his religion' and began to assume an air of such great humility that his companions nicknamed him 'Monsieur le Pauvre'.” He also began to embark on a devoted study of Medieval plainsong and Gothic art, “spending hours of each day ... meditating in the gloom of the Notre-Dame Cathedral.”9 Satie's religious interest was individualistic, and potentially more based on a fascination with the aesthetic world of Medieval Christianity than on any deep sense of devotion. Later in his life, during his Rose-Croix period, when Satie served as the official composer of the Parisian mystic Joséphin Péladan's revival of the Rosicrucian Order, Satie composed his Messe des pauvres, a liturgical work for mixed choir and organ. Gillmor calls the mass “perhaps the fullest realization of the composer's carefully cultivated Gothic dream.” Gillmor goes on to describe how, within the same Catholic-occult periodical in which fragments of Satie's mass were published, his brother Conrad Satie wrote a celebratory article claiming his brother to be “a Christian idealist” who “professes only disdain for the realism which has clouded the intellect of his contemporaries.” Conrad also mentions how Satie chooses to live in poverty, and writes his music, in true bohemian style, “solely for art's sake.”10 While we can only take Conrad Satie's words as a reflective of his own image of his brother, his impression does seem to reveal a version of Satie who long harboured an interest in religious matters, however unconventional. In any case, it seems clear that religious thought held an integral position in Satie's creative imagination.

Satie's Sonneries de la rose+croix, originally composed as accompaniment for Péladan's Rosicrucian rituals.

It's difficult to gauge exactly where Satie stood in relation to the Catholic Church. Though Satie had a clear interest in the Gothic, it is difficult to say whether his Christian piety dug much deeper than a fascination with the rituals and architecture of the Medieval Church. That said, the religious climate in Paris at the time was undergoing surprising changes, and Satie's own ambiguous relationship with the Catholic tradition fits in perfectly with his artistic contemporaries. Goldman draws attention, for example, to Debussy's musical opportunism which led him to explore many of the spiritual practices in vogue at the time, in order to “develop his own 'esoteric musical language'.” Although Debussy was associating with practitioners of the occult and, at the same time, the Benedictine monks at Solemnes, Goldman cautions against seeing Debussy “as either a quasi Satanist or devout Catholic.”11 Debussy was far more curious about ideas than practising religion. At that time, exploring the different religions known to the Parisian public was seen as an opportunity to get a taste of the larger world, and harness new creative forces, and was undertaken not necessarily out of a desire to seek a kind of “communion with the divine”.

Satie's Danses gothiques, composed in a polyphonic style reminiscent of medieval plainchant.

Satie was invited by the mystic Joséphin Péladan to become the official composer of his revival of the Rosicrucian order, a position which gave birth to what is known as the Rose-Croix period of Satie's oeuvre. It is during this period that Satie composed much of what is considered to be the most mystical of his compositions, including the already mentioned Messe des pauvres.12 Although it is possible that Satie entered into Péladan's occult organization with something of an amused sense of irony, Satie's initial association with Péladan nevertheless suggests that Satie had an interest in the ideas of the charismatic mystical leader. After all, in Péladan's Rosicrucian order, art was an essential vehicle for spiritual experience, and he saw “dans l'art un vecteur idéal pour éloigner ses contemporains du matérialisme et les sensibiliser à la spiritualité.”13 That Péladan felt that Satie's music possessed something of this power to “sensibiliser à la spiritualité” suggests something of Satie's contemporary status of either a mystic, or a mystifier. As for Satie's involvement with the Rosicrucians, given Satie's character, he likely would have enjoyed being associated with the mystery of the order, even if with a certain measure of ironic detachment. Moreover, Péladan's revival of Rosicrucianism also reminds us just how significant occult interests were in Paris at the time. This interest in mysticism and the occult was by no means limited to Satie alone, and his creative environment played a significant part in shaping his own artistic vision, despite how particular it was soon to become.

Satie's musical imagination developed in an artistic environment which sought its sense of meaning through mysticism. Fellow composer Chennevière, attempting to explain something of the obsession with mysticism at the turn of the century, writes that the artists of the time, “weary of the 'grand gesture' of romanticism, saddened by national defeat, incapable of understanding the meaning and grandeur of a civilization of the future ... took refuge in the Past, in the mysticism of the Middle Ages.” Satie was certainly not alone in his interest in the aesthetic world of the Medieval past, and in his obsession was engaging with a trending nostalgia for Europe's spiritual roots. Chennevière continues: “They allowed themselves to be lulled to rest by the religion of their childhood, by all that it offered them in the shape of atmospheric distance and revery, seeking to find the well-spring of this faith shrouded in the mists of passing centuries ... to lose themselves voluptuously in the oblivion of its waters.”14 For Chennevière, the artistic climate at the turn of the century was characterized by an introspective turn, an action motivated by a disappointment with the external world. While it certainly seems possible that the turn of the century could be characterized by a kind of national insecurity and obsessive nostalgia, and while it may even be true that this was the initial sociological phenomenon which drove Satie to his own interest in Medieval mysticism, what is really interesting is the way in which Satie took this initial sense of introspective nostalgia, and transformed this ancient mysticism into a distinctive musical language and world view within his compositions.

No matter how earnest, and perhaps naive, Satie's initial mystical leanings may have been, as time went on they gradually began to mature alongside his music. One of the important ways that Satie separated himself from contemporary purveyors of this “vague mysticism”15 was precisely through that aspect of his work which has left commentators everywhere confused – his sense of humour. Mystified by Satie's liberal use of ambiguous musical markings, Chennevière asks, “whom or what is he ridiculing? Is it Péladan? Is it mysticism?”16 To Chennevière, Satie's sense of humour makes little sense, and is seen as an product of impotence and inadequacy. Satie mocks the mystics because he cannot find it in himself to take anything seriously. But where Chennevière missteps is in his idea that there are only two paths to take - that of a trivial humourist, and that of a third-rate mystic. Satie's music cannot fully be appreciate, however, when we tug and pull between Satie the mystic and Satie the humorist. Rather, it is in Satie's play within the boundaries between humour and mysticism, in his play with parody, that we can come to see Satie in his full originality as a musical thinker. It is, indeed, a defining quality of Satie's music that he does not feel the need to distinguish between mysticism and humour.

Mysticism and Humour

Before continuing, it may be useful to examine these two terms. Mysticism is, unsurprisingly, often a very mystifying word. It often was, and is, thrown around without any clear sense of what is being referred to. There is good reason for this, of course, as the word's history itself is full of obfuscation. In Schmidt's review of the history of the word, he observes how it began to be used in the 17th century in the context of a devotional branch of the Church known as “mystical theology.”17 Later, the word “mysticism” came to be thought of as referring to a particular sect of Christianity, and was associated with the practices of “French Quietists and their misbegotten English successors.”18 At least in the Anglo-American world, mysticism began to take on a new meaning in the mid-19th century, where it was considered to be a universal category, and was spread to extend beyond the realm of merely Christian thought to include ideas found in all the spiritual traditions to the world. Much of this was the result of, firstly, the Anglican theologian Thomas Hartley who, in his Short Defence of the Mystical Writers, wrote that the mystics were the “guardians of the spirituality of true religion,” and that they transcended sectarianism and separatism, instead seeking a more introspective, direct relationship with the divine.19 The second major shift in the definition of mysticism came from Robert Alfred Vaughan's Hours with the Mystics published in 1856, in which the writer argues how varieties of what he calls “mysticism” are to be found in all the world's spiritual traditions, at different times. That is to say, all traditions have their branches concerned with a direct communion with the divine. Thanks to Vaughan, mysticism began to take on meaning in the larger context of world religions, and he is known as being responsible for opening “the way for the popularization of 'mysticism' as a conduit into 'the highest form of spirituality'.”20 It is through writers like Vaughan that mysticism in its modern usage first came to be.

Later, through the influence of writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller, mysticism, through a transcendentalist filter, came to be even further separated from its association with Christianity. It began to take on a new meaning as something “loosely spiritual, intuitive, emancipatory, and universal.”21 Mysticism had started to become a kind of catch-all term to describe spiritual experience, sufficiently vague enough to apply to a variety of practices. What began as a term denoting a certain practice of christian worship soon came to represent a universal type of experience supposedly found in all religious practices.

Today, the Merriam-Webster English dictionary defines mysticism as, “the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics.22 Restraining the definition to the experience of those who call themselves mystics is a good way of clearing away some of the ambiguity. More relevant to Satie's own time may be this definition of “mysticisme” found in the 1873 Dictionnaire de la langue française: Néologisme. Croyance religieuse ou philosophique, qui admet des communications secrètes entre l'homme et la divinité.”23 As with the more contemporary English definition, the central feature in this definition of the French word is found in its reference to a communication between the human and the divine. The current definition and etymology of the word is sufficiently vague enough that a literal communication with a particular Christian divinity does not need to be assumed, and the Christian association was often purposely avoided in order to encourage a view of spirituality with a wider, non-denominational reach. That said, this egalitarian spirituality was also propped up as a kind of shield against the contemporary positivist trends. The 19th century mystics wielded the word as a defence against the scrutiny of the sceptical scientific eye, in an effort to protect their hopes for divine experience.24 Nevertheless, despite the term's later ambiguity, it continued to be used, and is still often used today, to describe some type of experience, or abstraction of an idealized experience. Whether the “mystical” describes a genuine experience, or is merely a place holder term for “seekers by seekers, for those who longed to be firsthand prophets but who mostly remained secondhand observers,”25 the fact that the term was ascribed to the music of Erik Satie tells us a lot about how his music was received. Mysticism is something vague, but it also points toward the most profound kind of experience the human mind can conceive. There is a mysterious, ambiguous, and deeply profound quality to the mystical, and it is significant that this strange term should come to mind when listening to Satie, a composer mostly known for his bizarre sense of humour.

The idea of mysticism as a kind of divine experience echos Huizinga's ideas on the origin of rites and rituals, which he suggests may result from a kind of “'seizure' – being seized on, thrilled, enraptured ... the thrill of 'being seized' by the phenomenon of life and nature is condensed by reflex action, as it were, to poetic expression and art.” Huizinga suggests that profound experiences with nature are the original sources of religious creation. The end result of our contact with these powerful experiences is considered to be a “meta-logical” understanding of reality which results in the creation of myths, rituals, and indeed art as a way of making sense of reality. According to Huizinga , in the realm of religion we deal with these profound experiences through the act of play.26 For Huizinga, one of the main qualities of human society is its play-like characteristics. For example, Huizinga describes myth making as an attempt to “account for the world of phenomena by grounding it in the Divine. In all the wild imaginings of mythology a fanciful spirit is playing on the border-line between jest and earnest.”27 For Huizinga, all the larger social institutions found in human society are fundamentally indistinct from the games that children occupy themselves with on playgrounds, in the sense that both are constructed around the principles of the play element in human society. Huizinga also stresses that play is fundamental to human nature, as it reveals that “we must be more than merely rational beings, for play is irrational.”28 The drive to interact with the world in a creative way, in an aesthetic way, seems to be fundamental to what makes us human, no matter how irrational it seems to be. We enjoy what is beautiful and what is fun, seemingly for its own sake. Although many theories exists as to the practical, psychological functions of play, manifested in everything from hopscotch to orchestral performance, play ultimately transcends any practical value and must come to be viewed from an aesthetic perspective, much like how a numerical analysis can't be used to reveal the value found in a Beethoven symphony. The same is true with religion as an extension of play. Though the Marxist interpretation as an “opiate of the masses” is one possible reading of religion's function in society, ultimately rational explanations fail at assessing the entirety of the phenomenon, which is largely mythic, aesthetic, and essentially playful. Religion, just like music, is often engaged in for its own sake, for its own sense of excitement in play.

According to Huizinga's model, mysticism – the direct communication of human beings with the divine – would then describe the experiential origin of the drive toward religious creativity, and the creation of games that are able to capture and, to some degree, transmit a “cosmic emotion struggling for expression.”29 In other words, the game of religion, just like art, is an expression of that which we feel we must express. Huizinga emphasizes, however, that not all games have their origin in such lofty sources, and that even without what we might call “mystical experience,” games and play would still be abound. The contrast emphasized here between the original mystical experience and the games constructed around them is significant. We might suggest that all religions and spiritual practices have their origin in something like “mystical experience,” in a very personal, moving experience of life and nature. That said, were religions all founded on the basis suggested by Marx, as a means of exploiting the naive – a view Huizinga criticizes as ignoring the reality that many religions in simple societies operate under the consciousness of things “not being real”30 - then the developed form of a complex religion would not look much different than if it were founded upon a genuine mystical experience. What is important is that, no matter what triggers the original drive toward ritual and creative expression, the ends result is that games begin to develop, and rules, goals, and ludic environments are formed. For example, while the initial mystical experiences of someone like Paul the Apostle may have led to a desire to repeat them through church ritual, they were eventually codified – or “gamified”, to use more contemporary terminology - through the creation of church hierarchy, salvation doctrines, and specific places of worship. Similarly, the mystical experiences of the Buddha, which are said to have led to an awakening to the realities of worldly experience, were soon gamified in the form of the Noble Eightfold Path, an increasingly complicated conception of nibbāna, and the establishment of fixed monasteries and shrines. There is always a clear dichotomy at work between the original experience, and the creative products which arise from the initial impulse. It is thus difficult, if not impossible, to follow the history of an institution and discover something like the true, “mystical” motivation behind its inception. All we have are the games, with no access to the forces which compelled their creation.

That said, whether mystical experiences, or a deep communion with nature, can be found at the heart of a tradition or not is not significant whatsoever. It is not the origin of the tradition which matters, but how it is lived today. What is significant is how one plays the game. In order to make sense of this, let us consider the role of the charlatan. Writer and filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky recounts his time studying with the “so-called charlatans and curanderos” of Mexico City, out of an interest in developing his own understanding of the relationship between unconscious symbols and their potential healing properties. Jodorowsky writes, “every neighbourhood has its own witch or wizard. Thanks to the faith of their patients, they often achieve a cure ... the charlatan develops very personal techniques with great creativity, I compare them to painters ... some have more imagination or talent than others, but all are useful if faith is placed in them. They speak to the primitive human that still lies inside each and every one of us.”31 During his studies, Jodorowsky didn't learn any magical powers which would help him cure the sick, but he did learn the healing power of trickery. Though trickery can be a dangerous thing, and is doubtlessly coloured by some deeply negative connotations, trickery in this sense that Jodorowsky describes it can be found in everything from psychoanalysis, law, and even art itself. We indeed trick ourselves into believing that the therapist knows a cure, that the judge embodies the law, or that words on a page can come to represent real characters and powerful human emotions. Whenever the mind and emotions are involved, we enter an irrational mode of being where we are subject to the whims of psychological forces beyond conscious control. The way we deal with this unpredictable aspect of human nature is of course through myth, ritual, and art, what we saw Huizinga refer to as “playing on the border-line between jest and earnest.” What is important is not whether there was every an original mystical experience underlying a religious practice – how could such a thing ever be verified? What is important is that we realize the value in “sacred trickery”, in the realms of play created by the imagination, as this is the true, ambiguous source of mystical feeling. The real mysticism comes from the way the game is played, not from how it was created.

We have spent a lot of time discussing the idea of mysticism, but so far I have not said much about humour. The reason is that it doesn't seem to me that the two are as distinct as might initially be supposed. Granted, when discussing the play element in culture, Huizinga does stress that “the mimic and laughter-provoking art of the clown is comic as well as ludicrous, but it can scarcely be termed genuine play.”32 The example is odd, however, as Huizinga elsewhere emphasizes how other forms of performance are, in fact, examples of play – the performance of a Bach prelude, for example.33 What Huizinga's intention seems to be is to express the distinction between humour and play. “In itself play is not comical either for player or public.”34 This appears to be evidently true. We hardly burst into laughter when watching a baseball game, and while Pacman may be absurd, it doesn't provoke fits of giggling in itself. But while play isn't necessarily funny, is humour not necessarily play? The clown and mimic, too, play within ludic parameters, with their own goals, rituals, and magic circles (pulling off tricks, traditional routines, the circus ring, etc,.) While this isn't the place to discuss the place of humour in Huizinga in any real depth, for our purposes it suffices to recognize the ludic element in mimicry. There is play in parody. Humour is indeed a kind of play with what elements have already been given – humour can only exist as an act of playing with culture. Of course, whether something is actually funny is subjective. But parody, as a formal construction, is not. Moreover, parody does not necessarily need to be funny – it can be ironic, it can be instructive, or it can merely be formal for the sake of convenience. Parody is also, significantly, one of the main ways that humour is conveyed through musical composition, particularly in the work of Satie.

While it would be facetious to claim that there is no difference at all between mysticism and humour, there is nevertheless a clear connection between the two, when viewed from a ludic perspective. Mysticism and humour are both aspects of play, and must exist within a context of games and institutions in order to be imbued with any sense. Christian mysticism, for example, would make no sense outside of the the rules of Christianity pertaining to belief in the resurrection and the notion of original sin (a justification for needing to pursue the goal of salvation). Zen mysticism on the other hand would make no sense outside of the rules of Buddhism pertaining to the idea of impermanence (aniccā) and no-self (anattā). Conversely, Mozart's famous Ein musikalischer Spaß could make no sense to us outside of the context of the classical music tradition with its many rules of counterpoint and orchestration. And, naturally, Satie's own notorious Embryons desséchés (Desiccated Embryos) is lost on those unable to place it within the context of the tradition of romantic music – within the rules of the romantic sect - with its idolization of Chopin's bursting sentimentality, and celebration of Beethoven's cadential bombast.35 The connection between mysticism and humour (or, more specifically, parody), then, is that both require a social institution in order to be given form. Without the context of human society, there can be no mysticism and there can be no humour. Both have their being only as elabroations of the given rules.

Mozart's Ein musikalischer Spaß, K. 522, one of the classic examples of humour conveyed through the medium of a shared musical grammar.

The Parody Principle

Parody is often erroneously conflated with humour, but it can actually serve many purposes. Parody can of course mimic and mock, but it can also be used as an educational tool. In sacred traditions, parody has most often been used as a way of transforming tradition. What is interesting is that Satie's own use of parody resembles the tradition of sacred parody quite closely, as a method of playing with the old tradition in such a way that a new one is established. Musical parody and quotation is not always used for the purpose of humour, and we shall see how Satie's own use of parody further highlights the ambiguity between mysticism and humour found in his work.

Referring to his solo piano work Embryons desséchés Satie had this to say:

Cette oeuvre est absolument incompréhensible même pour moi.
D'une profondeur singulière, elle m'étonne toujours. Je l'ai écrite malgré moi, poussé par le destin.
Peut-être ai-je voulu faire de l'humour. Cela ne me surprendrait pas et serait assez ma manière. Toutefois, je n'aurai aucune indulgence pour ceux qui en feront fi.
Qu'ils le sachent.

(This work is absolutely incomprehensible even to me.
Of a singular depth, it always surprises me. I wrote it despite myself, pushed by destiny.
Maybe I wanted to make a joke? It wouldn't surprise me, and would suite me quite well.
Nevertheless, I will not stand for others ignoring it.
Let them know.)36

Satie's Embryons desséchés is considered to be one of the pinnacles of his work as a humourist. Nevertheless, in this amusing, if somewhat ambiguous, statement left by Satie, he remains characteristically reticent about his intention behind the work. Was it really written as a piece of comedy? To what extent can we even claim works of parody and musical quotation to be “comic”? Some examples of parody are evidently intended to be funny, such as the comically grotesque Tristan und Isolde quotation appropriated in Debussy's Golliwogg's Cakewalk. But how can we place Berio's symphonic pastiche Sinfonia, comprised almost entirely of quotations from composers across the concert canon from Bach to Stockhausen, along a scale of mysticism and humour? It seems that the closer music came to the postmodernism of the likes of Cage and Berio, the less obvious the distinction between seriousness and non-seriousness became, which is of course only natural as postmodernism sought to break every traditional boundary it could. For example, Berio's Sequenza V for solo trombone was composed as a tribute to the performance of a clown named Grock which the composer had witnessed as a child, and is often performed with the trombonist dressed in a clown costume.37 Were Satie to have attempted something like this, it would of course have been used as more evidence of the composer's status as a “musical humorist of a childish and affected type.”38 Nevertheless, when we listen to Berio's Sequenza, we typically do not laugh (though perhaps some do, out of its absurdity). Even if we do laugh, we still understand, however, that Berio is aiming at something different from simple humour. Despite the clowns, a Saturday morning cartoon Sequenza V is not. Is there a mysticism to Berio's Sequenza? Perhaps, but it seems more likely that the work operates on a level beyond a distinction between the two. There is no confusion over Berio the mystic and Berio the joker. No one is worried about Berio “pulling their leg” and being made a fool of. This is why Gillmor's observation on the potential irony behind Vexation's celebration amongst the experimental elite does not hold up.39 Satie is not celebrated by contemporary composers for being a “serious mystic” who neatly separated his humour from his profundity. He is celebrated for the opposite reason, for being someone who showed that we do not need to chose between just one or the other. He eschewed the difference between the light and the profound.

Berio's Sequenza V, inspired by the composer's experience of a performance by Grock the clown.

Moreover, the idea that important ideas and profound emotions must at any cost be separated from humour and parody is a fairly arbitrary concept which has little to do with the history of religion, philosophy, and mysticism. For example, much work has been done looking for humour in the ancient religious traditions, revealing that parody and comedy were often used as a way of illustrating moral, social, and doctrinal lessons. This much should be obvious from a brief glance through popular folk stories and myths, but we in the western world can often forget this when viewing history through the heavy lenses of two thousand years of Christian tradition. Nevertheless, even in Biblical scriptures we can find examples of humour, often used for the purpose of illustrating wisdom and doctrine, as suggested by Radday's study of the old testament40 as well as Macy's study of the new and old testaments.41

Perhaps more so than Christianity, the early Buddhist canon is rich in humour and parody. Buddhist monk and writer Thanissaro Bhikkhu, more instance, claims that the Pāli Canon is rife with humour, and that it can be divided into two kinds. The first kind, which we will focus on here, is used to “develop a sense of detachment toward things that people all too often dream about and fall for,” usually by demonstrating amusing stories of people acting foolishly as a result of their greed and desires. Another important facet of early Buddhism, however, was the ways in which it contradicted contemporary Brahmanic ideas – thus one thing that early Buddhism cautioned against was a fanatical reliance on the Brahmanic gods. Thanissaro refers to one story found in the Kevatta Sutta which involves a monk bothered by an existential question. He enters into a meditation so deep that he finds himself manifested in a heavenly realm filled with Brahmanic devas. He poses his question to the heavenly beings, but none seem to know the answer. They direct him to yet a higher heavenly realm. No matter how high this monk goes, however, none of the Brahmanic gods seem to know the answer to his query. Finally, the monk appears before Lord Brahma himself, the ultimate god figure in Indian religious thought. The monk poses his question to Brahma, but this all-powerful god, too, avoids offering a clear answer. Eventually, after being asked the same question three times, Brahma leads the monk out of earshot and admits that he doesn't actually know the answer, and that the monk better go back to earth and ask the Buddha.42

In this amusing early Buddhist story, a parody of Brahmanic beliefs is employed as a way of reinforcing Buddhist teaching, while also connecting new ideas with the old thought already maintained by tradition. In Buddhism, of course, one of the essential ideas is that all things are flawed and impermanent, including the all-powerful gods. To strengthen the case for parody in the early Buddhist canon, Gombrich has argued that a large amount of Buddhist teachings are really parodies of ancient Brahmanic practices which were in vogue at the time.43 Whatever the extent to which early Buddhism parodies Brahmanism in the foundation of its own teachings, it serves as an elegant example of the sacred and the humorous coming together fluidly in historical literature.

Huizinga also acknowledges the importance of this kind of extrapolation of existing religious ideas in history, referring to the figureheads behind these developments as “spoil-sports” who refuse to play by the rules of the old religious game. Instead, these spoil-sports “in their turn make a new community with rules of their own.” Huizinga emphasizes how “heretics of all kinds are of a highly associative if not sociable disposition, and a certain element of play is prominent in all their doings.”44 An essential aspect of the religious game is found in those who come along and change it, as soon as the play aspects begin to fall away in the face of rigid, inflexible tradition.

We are reminded here of Satie who, after leaving Péladan's Rosicrucian order, began a church of his own, which he referred to as L'Église Métropolitaine d'Art de Jésus Conducteur.45 Satie's church, however, was more of a parody of Péladan's than a genuine attempt at reforming corrupt doctrine and moving closer to a mystical union with the divine. Nevertheless, it may be of some value to consider the similarities between Satie's break with Péladan's Rosicrucianism and, for example, Luther's break with Catholicism, or even the Buddha's break with Brahmanism. In each case, the founders were using a preexisting cultural tradition with its own set of rules, rites, and vocabulary, in order to steer the public mind in a new direction, to rewrite the underlying myths and metaphysical assumptions which governed their concept of their existential situation. Moreover, there was in each case, as Huizinga might point out, an element of play. Formally, all the elements of a new religious sect were present in Satie's L'Église Métropolitaine, but it was perhaps the composer's own lack of commitment and religious charisma which prevent it from gaining momentum. It seems likely that Satie thought of his own church as just another whimsical experiment. Nevertheless, Satie's amusing project of an introverted, one-man church reveals much about his interest in, and attitude toward, religion, and how, as Huizinga would say, he was so naturally able to play “on the border-line between jest and earnest.”46 Satie felt perfectly at home playing around within the field of the sacred. It is also worth mentioning how Satie's own mass, the Messe des pauvres, was originally to be called his Grande Messe de l'Église Métropolitaine d'Art.47 It would certainly suit Satie's strange parody religion to have a kind of half-serious, half-joking “parody mass” written in its name. In fact, Satie's mass is the perfect symbol for his own religious life – roughly modelled on Christian tradition, but thoroughly infused with Satie's unmistakable individuality and heretical wit. Perhaps in the sense of Satie's nonconformist, highly personal religious attitude, Satie truly was the model of the classical mystic.

Mes de pauvres, Satie's most overtly religious work, was originally composed as a mass for his self-created church.

Vexations, the Sacred Comedy

Composed during his characteristically unusual romantic relationship with Suzanne Valadon, Vexations was only published after the composer's death, most notably in 1969 by Robert Caby in a collection of three pieces called Pages mystiques. The title of the collection was of course selected by Caby, and there is no reason to believe that Satie considered Vexations to be of a mystical character. The closest suggestion we have may be found in the cryptic directions written at the head of the score, “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.” (To play oneself this motif 840 times in a row, it would be good to prepare oneself in advance, in the most profound silence, by serious immobilities.)48 Nevertheless, it should be obvious that this absurd opening direction fits perfectly in line with Satie's typically odd, whimsical performance directions, whether they imply mysticism or not.

Vexations, one of Satie's most enigmatic compositions, had a significant influence on many 20th century composers, most notably John Cage.

Vexations itself is a vexing, short work written as a dissonant muddle of sharps and flats, seemingly designed for the purpose of bothering the performer, or at least making the work difficult to memorize. That said, Vexation's possibly facetious character has not stopped the piece from being regarded as an example of musical mysticism. As Gillmor relates, “performers and audiences who have experienced 'Vexations' in its entirety have reported some form of expanded consciousness akin to the spirit of Zen.”49 Potter draws attention to the “stoic, prayer-like attitude required of the performer,” which suggests Vexations as being something of a “grotesque hymn.”50 And, of course, in putting together his collection of Satie's works, Caby saw fit to associate it with the term “mystique”. Something about the piece's mysterious ambiguity and fearful symmetries has inclined many listeners to interpret it more as a mystical experience than as a mere musical joke.

Nevertheless, the anxiety again arises that Satie may just be pulling our leg. In discussing the performance directions in Vexations, Potter qualifies her very sober analysis by acknowledging that that, of course, “with Satie one can never rule out the possibility that the expression is simply a provocation or a joke.”51 Moreover, Gillmor draws attention to Henri Sauguet, who said that he “considered Vexations a joke and claimed that Satie himself did not take it seriously.”52 No matter how serious it appears that Satie is trying to be, he is never quite trusted. But, if not Vexations, what exactly can we suggest that Satie did take seriously? Did he take his time as the official composer of Péladan's Rosicrucian order seriously? Did he take the creation of his own church seriously? Did he take his own role as a composer seriously? When speaking about Satie, we cannot get very far by trying to divide between what the composer considered “serious” and what he considered to be “a joke”. In his exploration of Satie's days as a composer and pianist in Paris's cabaret halls, Whiting quotes Robert Orledge, who observed that “Satie managed to convert popular music into a serious art and break down the barriers between the two.”53 In the same way that Satie did not care much for a distinction between popular and serious music, Satie did not distinguish between his “serious” and “humorous” works. For him, mysticism and humour seemed to merge together naturally, and could coexist easily without any stylistic dissonance.

Although the idea of a sacred comedy might seem incongruous, as we have already seen, parody and humour have been tools in religious traditions from the beginning. Few religious traditions illustrate the role of humour in spiritual practice more strongly than Zen Buddhism, and in the Zen tradition no one stands out in this regard more than Sengai Gibon (仙厓 義梵). Sengai, a Japanese monk from the late 17th century known for his lighthearted paintings depicting parodies of Zen and Japanese culture, must remind us of Satie in the way that he blurred the lines between mysticism and humour. Although, as we have already seen, Buddhism has never been a stranger to the use of humour in order to pass down its teachings, with Sengai the practice is taken even further by, in a rather Satie-esque way, poking fun at the Zen tradition itself. One of Sengai's sumi-e paintings depicts the well-known single-stroke dark circle, the ensō, a Zen symbol of the void, of impermanence. The ensō holds a profound significance in Zen thought and art. Unexpected, however, is the text accompanying Sengai's painting, “これくふて / 茶のめ.” (Eat this and have a cup of tea.)54 Sengai makes light of the revered Zen symbol, by revealing that what might initially be considered a Zen ensō is, in fact, merely a tasty snack. Elsewhere, Sengai parodies the meditation practice he devoted his life to with a painting depicting a squatting frog, accompanied by the text, “If a man becomes a Buddha by practising Zen meditation.”55 By comparing the devout meditator to an unpretentious frog, Sengai makes light of the practice of Zen, bringing the nature of its “mystical” insights closer to the everyday lives of his audience. Discussing the mundane humour in Sengai, Kuroda writes, “in these everyday scenes [in Sengai's work], a gap seems to open up – a door to the truth or to another world, which invites the observer to reflect on the meaning of life.”56 In the same way that Sengai's humour invites us to contemplate, Satie's own musical humour could be said to invite us to a state of mystical feeling, a state which transcends the confines of mere laughter or serious contemplation.

Of particular interest to an interpretation of Sengai as a Zen iconoclast is his depiction of the classic Zen koan known as “Nanquan and the Cat.” The story traditionally depicts two monks quarrelling over a cat. Hoping to resolve the argument, Zen master Nanquan comes by and picks up the cat, threatening to kill it unless the two monks say something to dissuade him. The monks remain silent, and, sadly, the cat is slain. Sengai, however, expressed his disapproval at this rather violent story by painting a parody of the scene, accompanied by a text which questions why the cat had to be killed - why not the humans in the story?57 Not only did Sengai employ parody as a way of questioning the tradition of Zen, but he also used humour as a way of deflating the pretension that can build up around religious practice when a lack of playfulness starts to paralyse it with blind doctrinal obedience.

In a similar way to Sengai's use of humour, Satie often explored parody as a way of humanizing art and religion, bringing the often bombastic world of “serious European culture” back to earth. Satie notoriously loathed pretension. In one surviving fragment of writing, Satie emphatically states that “il est d'usage de croire qu'il y a une 'Vérité' en Art. Je ne cesserai de la répéter même à haute voix: 'IL N'Y A PAS DE VÉRITÉ EN ART'.”58 Satie refused to buy into the idea so common in his age that there was some ultimate spiritual goal associated with the communion with music, that experiencing art allowed a person to get closer to an essential truth. Satie saw art not as a pursuit of truth, but as a cultural game, often a humorous one. Moreover, in an amusing statement on Bach's chorales, Satie claims that, “mes chorals égalent ceux de Bach avec cette différence qu'ils sont plus rares et moins prétentieux.59 Just as Sengai mocked his tradition of Zen in order to bring it closer to everyday life, so too does Satie mock the works of celebrated composers, refusing to believe that they are essentially any different from him. For a ninteenth century composer, calling into question the value of the music of Bach was a heretical act perhaps comparable to that of a ninteenth century Japanese Zen monk painting parodies of the teachings of classical Zen masters. While Satie may often have aimed at something profound in his work, he was not convinced that music contained any inherent meaning. There is something of an unpretentious nihilism at the heart of Satie, an attitude not without its own mysticism. For example, we could easily make a Buddhist of Satie by rephrasing his expression to, “there is no truth in LIFE.”

In music, a classic example of Satie's own brand of humour can of course be found in the second movement of his Embryons desséchés, where Satie quotes and parodies the “Marche funèbre” from Chopin's Piano Sonata No. 2 in B-flat minor, along with the hilarious performance direction, “Citation de la célèbre mazurka de SCHUBERT.”60 The quotation is obviously not of a Schubert work, and, again, Satie's attitude serves to bring the achievements of the great masters closer to everyday experience. His lighthearted treatment brushes away the conservatory's reverential cobwebs. Similar to Sengai, Satie is playing with the materials of the existing tradition to suit his own personal vision, and perhaps trying and discover some value in it beyond what has merely been conventionally passed down from the previous generations. Like Sengai, Satie deflates in order to recover value. Satie acts as a musical heretic by breaking with the musical tradition, and, similar to the Buddha's sacred parodies of Brahmanic belief, uses humour as a way of constructing something new by playfully parodying the old.

Second movement of Embryons desséchés, featuring a quotation from the "celebrated Mazurka of Schubert."

Here is the "Schubert Mazurka" for reference (quotation starting at 14:41).

It may occur to us to wonder from what source Satie's conflation of the serious and the comic derived. Certainly, Satie could be argued to have come out of a spiritual tradition, like Sengai, which led him to repudiate a distinction between the sacred and secular. We could read Satie as being a kind of Christian Sengai Gibon. More grounded options are available to us, however. Rothschild, for example, draws attention to how the cabaret style, which was such an influence on Satie and his contemporaries, was characterized by “quick shifts, discontinuity, course jokes and puns,” and that “it was not unusual for serious poetry readings to be interrupted by a boisterous song or joke.”61 In the entertainment world of the Parisian cabaret, the pathos of the evening did not feel disturbed by drastic disjunctions between high and low art, what was serious and what was only in jest. It is also possible that Satie's early experience in the Parisian cabarets helped establish his distaste for putting on pretentious airs. It only seems natural that this attitude would accompany Satie as he embarked upon his more “serious” concert works, and that he would perhaps intuitively, in conjunction with his own iconoclast spirit, begin to compose in a style which did not see it as strange to juggle both mysticism and humour at once.

With this in mind, the question of how we should approach Vexations becomes clearer. Satie's wry witticism wasn't meant as a way to impose his superiority over the musical tradition, as a result of his feelings of inadequacy, as Chennevière has suggested62, but as a way of interacting with the tradition in a way which enable him to break down boundaries and achieve more creative freedom. Satie of course thrived in an atmosphere of freedom. Rowley reminds us how “Satie tended to avoid traditional musical forms ... this did not mean that form was an irrelevant concept to him - far from it. He simply did not wish to subjugate his musical material to traditional forms with their invocations of centuries of musical tradition and instead took great delight in creating new forms of great complexity.”63 Satie never enjoyed merely tracing the footprints of tradition, and instead always strove to parody it, developing new creative pathways from the process. Similarly, Satie did not care to adopt the antiquated division between “high” and “low” art, and composed in a way which disregarded the distinction between what European society considered serious, and what it considered merely to be a musical joke. It is indeed likely that Satie meant for his famous performance direction in Vexations to be taken both as a joke, and as a serious invitation to enter his strange, unique world, in the same way that Sengai Gibon's paintings were meant to evoke laughter, while at the same time provoke deeper thoughts on the nature of reality. As we saw in the already quoted statement on his Embryons desséchés, Satie wrote that “cette oeuvre est absolument incompréhensible même pour moi.”64 Even to himself, Satie's creative world was a mystery, and he couldn't be sure whether he was trying to be humorous or not. Similar to Zen master Sengai, Satie's entire creative project involved mystifying the boundary between the binaries of the European musical tradition. As his friend and fellow composer Koechlin wrote in reference to Satie, he was “the living embodiment of the proverb that many a true word is spoken in jest.”65 Why then should we be afraid of taking seriously an absurd composition like Vexations, a work which should instead demand even more of our attention for so effectively transcending the boundary between “divinity and jest,” and for demonstrating the possibility of a sacred comic style in Western art music? If anything, Satie teaches his listeners the profound lesson which was to be well recieved by the likes of John Cage and his contemporaries decades later – that a joke is not to be treated too lightly.


The 19th century was not accustomed to musical ambiguities, and much preferred a clear demarcation between rhetorical intention. “We admit that music need not always be striving and yearning,” writes W. Wright Roberts in his essay examining Satie as a humorist from an English perspective, “that a serious composer may unbend, as Beethoven did in his scherzos. Perhaps we have still a superstitious reverence for humour of the fierce and angry kind, and for bitter humour, with tragedy round the corner. Good humour, gaiety, joy in life.”66 The contemporary concert hall audiences of Satie's time were accustomed to a clear musical rhetoric, where the emotional intention of a work was forceful and evident. A classical master such as Haydn, for example, would never pause to wonder whether the intention of his work was meant to be humorous or not – it was indeed the entire craft of the classical composer to unambiguously manifest a particular musical intention. When Haydn intended to be comic, he left no room for doubt. Satie's humour, suiting the increasing complexity of his age, was far more nuanced. Through parody and ambiguity, Satie challenged listeners to approach things beyond their habitual way of thinking, to open themselves to a new artistic ambiguity. In a way not unlike the postmodernism of Cage and Berio, Satie played with the forms handed down by tradition as a way of breaking through them into original territory. He drew inspiration equally from his fascination with traditional religion as from his interest in repudiating tradition, leading to a musical style that took on a “pretended religiosity”67 which was not afraid of exploring the comic and mystic at once.

The situation of an artist alienated from his contemporaries is of course not limited to Satie alone. To take a more recent example, rock musician Frank Zappa, despite coming from a more sophisticated musical background than most in the rock tradition was, much like Satie, often labelled as a mere musical humorist. When an artist's work does not fit comfortably within the current rules of the tradition, one way to ease the cognitive tension is to assume that the artist's intention is merely comic – often at the expense of the depth and richness found just beneath the unfamiliar surface.

In the same way, commentators have spent much ink discussing Satie's supposed shortcomings, criticizing his flippancy and naivite. While attitudes have certainly shifted since the celebration of Satie amongst composers like John Cage and the minimalist school, the respect that is afforded to Satie is still extended cautiously, out of a fear of taking too seriously something intended as a joke. Just as contemporary audiences laughed at Satie's not particularily funny Socrate, fearing “not being in on the joke”68, so too do many modern audiences and commentators hold Satie's body of work at a distance, not wanting to appear foolish for taking Erik Satie too seriously. But despite the frivolous image he projected, there is indeed something very serious in Satie. The serious in Satie is found in his style of sacred humor, in the ways he transcended the classical assumptions of the Western musical tradition and, by parodying them, crafted an original musical vision unlike anything else found in his contemporary musical world. Reading Satie as either a naive mystic or an out of place humorist will only ever a yeild fragmentary picture of the immense creative world of this composer. In order to begin to seriously deal with the problem of Satie, we need to first approach Satie's unique worldview on its own terms, and meet it in the place of play found beyond mere mysticism and jest.


1William Wright Roberts, “The Problem of Satie,” Music & Letters, Vol. 4, No. 4 (1923): 320.

2Robert Orledge, “Satie, Koechlin and the Ballet 'Uspud',” Music & Letters, Vol. 68, No. 1 (1987): 27.

3 Alan M. Gillmor, Erik Satie, (Massachusetts: Twayne Publishers, 1988): 28.

4 Alfred Cortot, “Le cas Erik Satie”, La Revue musicale, No. 183, (1938): 248.

5Rudhyar D. Chennevière and Frederick H. Martens, “Erik Satie and the Music of Irony,” The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 5, No. 4 (1919): 472.

6Roberts, “The Problem of Satie,” 313.

7  Gillmor, Erik Satie, 105.

8 Chennevière, “Erik Satie and the Music of Irony ,” 470.

9 Gillmor, Erik Satie, 33.

10 Ibid., 104.

11 David Paul Goldman, "Esotericism as a Determinant of Debussy's Harmonic Language," The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 2 (1991): 132.

12 Christian Rebisse, “Érik Satie, maître de chapelle des rose-croix,”, (accessed January 11, 2020).

13 Ibid.

14 Chennevière, “Erik Satie and the Music of Irony ,” 471.

15Ibid., 470.

16 Ibid., 472.

17 Leigh Eric Schmidt, “The Making of Modern 'Mysticism',” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 71, No. 2 (2003), 276.

18 Ibid., 280.

19 Ibid., 281.

20 Ibid., 283.

21 Ibid., “The Making of Modern 'Mysticism',” 286.

22 “Mysticism,” Merriam-Webster Inc. (accessed December 30, 2019).

23 Émile Littré, “Mysticisme,” Dictionnaire de la langue française, (Paris: Hachette, 1873).

24 Schmidt, “The Making of Modern 'Mysticism',” 288.

25 Ibid., 294.

26 Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, (Boston: The Beacon Press, 1955): 17.

27 Ibid., 5.

28 Ibid., 4.

29 Ibid., 17.

30 Ibid., 23.

31 Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Dance of Reality: A Psychomagical Autobiography, trans. Ariel Godwin, (Rochester: Park Street Press, 2014): 293.

32 Huizinga, Homo Ludens, 6.

33 Ibid., 25.

34 Ibid., 6.

35 Caitlin Rowley, “Satie the Neoclassicist,” Erik Satie's Crystal Ball. (accessed January 11, 2020).

36 Nigel Wilkins, “The Writings of Erik Satie: Miscellaneous Fragments,” Music & Letters, Vol. 56, No. 3/4 (1975): 292.

37 “Grock: And the Berio Sequenza 5,”, (accessed January 11, 2020).

38Roberts, “The Problem of Satie,” 313.

39 Gillmor, Erik Satie, 105.

40 Athalya Brenner-Idan and Yehuda T. Radday, ed., On Humour and the Comic in the Hebrew Bible, (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1990).

41 Howard R. Macy, Discovering Humor in the Bible: An Explorer's Guide, (Eugene: Cascade Books, 2016).

42 Matthew Gindin, “(En)lighten Up! Uncovering the Buddha’s Wit,” Tricycle. (accessed January 11, 2020).

43 Richard Gombrich, What the Buddha Taught, (London: Equinox, 2009).

44Huizinga, Homo Ludens, 12.

45 Rebisse, “Érik Satie, maître de chapelle des rose-croix.”

46 Huizinga, Homo Ludens, 5.

47 Gillmor, Erik Satie, 278

48 Caroline Potter, Erik Satie: A Parisian Composer and his World, (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2016), 139.

49 Gillmor, Erik Satie, 105.

50 Potter, Erik Satie, 141.

51Potter, Erik Satie, 142.

52 Gillmor, Erik Satie, 273.

53Steven Moore Whiting, Satie the Bohemian: From Cabaret to Concert Hall, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999): 4.

54Katharina Epprecht, ed., Zen Master Sengai, (Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess, 2014), 97.

55John L. Tran, “A master of Zen wisdom and dad jokes,” The Japan Times. (accessed January 11, 2020).

56Taizō Kuroda, “Contemplating Sengai – Deepending Our Thoughts,” Katharina Epprecht, ed., Zen Master Sengai, 13.

57“Sengai and the World of Zen: Food for thought at the Idemitsu,” Metropolis Japan. (accessed January 11, 2020).

58Wilkins, “The Writings of Erik Satie: Miscellaneous Fragments,” 301.

59Ibid., 292.

60 Rowley, “Satie the Neoclassicist.”

61 Deborah M. Rothschild, Picasso's Parade, (London: Bloomsbury, 2003), 87. Quoted in Potter, Erik Satie, 77

62 Chennevière, “Erik Satie and the Music of Irony ,” 472.

63 Rowley, “Satie the Neoclassicist.”

64 Wilkins, “The Writings of Erik Satie: Miscellaneous Fragments,” 292.

65 Orledge, “Satie, Koechlin and the Ballet 'Uspud'”, 26.

66 Roberts, “The Problem of Satie,” 313.

67 Chennevière, “Erik Satie and the Music of Irony ,” 472.

68 Potter, Erik Satie, xiii.


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