The Air at the Top of the Bottle

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The Spinning Bottle (1)

July 31st, 2008 · 1 Comment

As we gape at the continuity and chaos of the world, a chance meeting draws our attention. One way to approach the ineffable is to consider the mismatched pairs that time and space have thrown together. Here’s one.


Satie is sometimes depicted as a sort of musical monk, writing his radically simple pieces in poverty and solitude. But he was also a man of the theater, who composed music for many occasions: cabaret waltzes, satirical songs, Rosicrucian ceremonies, a Christian ballet, a Satanic play, a mass, a marionette opera, cubist ballets, dada spectacles, an experimental film — and much more.  He was out and about.

And when we think of Joseph Pujol, le Pétomane, we recall the photos of him, ass upturned, and marvel that fin de siècle Parisians flocked to see someone fart. But, of course, Pujol was also a man of the theater, and crafted a show.

We may not imagine Satie in Pujol’s audience.  But here he is, joking about one of Pujol’s specialties, in a letter to his brother (my translation, as usual):

To Conrad Satie

December 6, 1902

Me, I’ve got a bad sore throat, and nose; I also sometimes let out farts — in front of everyone, for example.

As soon as I’m alone in my admirable lodgings — a model of elegance — pow pow pow.

What’s that? the neighbors ask: it is your humble servant, who amuses himself by extinguishing the lamp with his behind.

Erik Satie

Pujol is also thought to have inspired Satie’s postcard (May 30, 1917) to Jean Poueigh, a critic who had panned Satie’s score for Parade: “…But what I do know is that you are an asshole — if I may say so, an asshole without music.”

I also like to think that Pujol inspired the contrabassoon part in Satie’s score for Cocteau’s aborted production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  You never know where the continuity and chaos will lead.

(Posted by Doug Skinner)

Tags: Music · The Ineffable

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 elena // Aug 1, 2008 at 9:49 pm

    i wonder what satie was eating….

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