The Musician’s Day


Department of Tomfoolery

A drawing by Satie in a letter to Jean Cocteau, 1917. “Monsieur Sadi in his house—he’s thinking.”

Erik Satie, the composer and pianist, was born on this day 150 years ago. “There are many kinds of eccentric,” Nick Richardson wrote in the London Review of Books last year, “and Satie was most of them.” The musician’s description of his diet, comprising all-white foods, many of them inedible, is often quoted as evidence of this eccentricity. It comes from an even more eccentric whole, Satie’s book Memoirs of an Amnesiac. The relevant passage is reprinted below, with some of his drawings of imaginary buildings and busts, because why not … —D.P. 

An artist must organize his life. Here is the exact timetable of my daily activities:

I rise at 7:18; am inspired from 10:23 to 11:47. I lunch at 12:11 and leave the table at 12:14. A healthy ride on horseback round my domain follows from 1:19 P.M. to 2:53 P.M. Another bout of inspiration from 3:12 to 4:07 P.M. From 4:27 to 6:47 P.M. various occupations (fencing, reflection, immobility, visits, contemplation, dexterity, swimming, etc.)

Dinner is served at 7:16 and finished at 7:20 P.M. From 8:09 to 9:59 P.M. symphonic readings (out loud). I go to bed regularly at 10:37 P.M. Once a week, I wake up with a start at 3:19 (Tuesdays).

My only nourishment consists of food that is white: eggs, sugar, grated bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water, fruit-mould, rice, turnips, camphorated sausages, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish (without their skin). I boil my wine and drink it cold mixed with the juice of the Fuchsia. I am a hearty eater, but never speak while eating, for fear of strangling. 

I breathe with care (a little at a time). I very rarely dance. When walking, I clasp my sides, and look steadily behind me.

My expression is very serious; when I laugh it is unintentional, and I always apologize most affably.

I sleep with only one eye closed, very profoundly. My bed is round, with a hole to put my head through. Once every hour a servant takes my temperature and gives me another.

I have subscribed for some time to a fashion magazine. I wear a white cap, white stockings, and a white waistcoat.

My doctor has always told me to smoke. Part of his advice runs: “Smoke away, dear chap; if you don’t someone else will.”

Satie’s drawing of the Hotel de la Suzonnières, ca. 1893.

A castle, nonexistent, as sketched by Satie.

Satie’s sketch for a bust of himself, never completed.