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1917 __ Parade, Ballet réaliste en un tableau
Erik Satie (1866-1925)
Comment : Parade is a ballet with music by Erik Satie and a one-act scenario by Jean Cocteau. The ballet was composed 1916-1917 for Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes. The ballet premiered on May 18, 1917 at the Theatre du Chatelet in Paris, with costumes and sets designed by Pablo Picasso, a choreography by Léonide Massine (who was also dancing), and the orchestra conducted by Ernest Ansermet. The idea of the ballet seems to have come from Jean Cocteau: he had heard Satie's Trois morceaux en forme de poire ("Three Pieces in the Shape of a Pear") in a concert, and thought of writing a ballet scenario to such music. Satie welcomed the idea of composing ballet music (which he had never done until that moment), but refused to allow any of his previous compositions to be used for the occasion: so Cocteau started writing a scenario (the theme being a publicity parade in which three groups of circus artists try to attract an audience to an indoor performance), to which Satie composed the music (with some additions to the orchestral score by Cocteau. The poet Guillaume Apollinaire described Parade as "a kind of surrealism" (“une sorte de surréalisme”) when he wrote the program note in 1917, thus coining the word three years before surrealism emerged as an art movement in Paris. The score contained several "noise-making" instruments (typewriter, foghorn, rattle, a lottery wheel, sounds of sirens, a factory whistle, starting pistols, an assortment of milk bottles,...), which had been added by Jean Cocteau (a bit to the dismay of Satie). It is supposed that such revolutionary additions by Cocteau showed his eagerness to create a succes de scandale, comparable to that of Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps which had been premiered by the Ballets Russes some years before. Although Parade was quite revolutionary, bringing common street entertainments to the elite, being scorned by audiences and being praised by critics, nonetheless many years later Stravinsky could still pride himself in never having been topped in the matter of succes de scandale.« When I listen to Satie's “Parade”, I appreciate the typewriter sounds as musical sounds; they are part of the composition. Noise exists in relation to the context within which it is inscribed. Two things more emerge from this short example. First, 'unpitched sound' is not always noise; it can be a musical sound as well. The distinction between music and noise based on the difference between periodic and non-periodic vibrations does not hold. Second, noise seems to be synonymous with undesirable sounds here. When accepted (as music), the same sound is no longer noise. But is it possible to demarcate the border of these undesirable sounds? And can listeners to music, visitors to a concert, banish every undesirable sound? Would a soundproof room with the most advanced audio equipment be an option? Perhaps, we might then be able to avoid undesirable sounds and background noise (unless we are diverted by the sounds of our body during very soft passages). But is it possible to avoid interference in the 'music itself'? Do the sounds of the bellows from an accordion, the breathing of singers, or the sounds of fingers sliding across the frets of a guitar belong to the music or should they be excluded? Indeed, is that at all possible? Some composers think of background noises made by musicians and instruments as an essential part of the composition. ». (Marcel Cobussen, “Noise as Undesirable Sound”, Interactive Dissertation, Department of Art and Culture Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands)
French comment : Parade est l’histoire d’un ballet créé par cinq personnes : Jean Cocteau écrivit le livret : “La discordance de la vie du cirque avec la ville et la vie”, Erik Satie composa la musique, Serge de Diaghilev, directeur des Ballets Russes, avec un jeune danseur Léonide Massine en firent la chorégraphie et Pablo Picasso réalisa le rideau de scène et les costumes. Mais Satie modifia l’argument de Cocteau. Celui-ci désirait un ballet “parlé” avec des mimes sur scène, doublés par des acteurs dans la fosse d’orchestre, pourvus de mégaphones. En compensation de ses dialogues supprimés, Cocteau exigea que Satie intègre dans la partition des bruits mécaniques (roue de loterie, sirène d’usine, coups de pistolets, machines à écrire, flaques sonores, bouteillophone - instrument de percussion constitué d'une série de bouteilles contenant des quantités diverses de liquides, ...). La première du ballet Parade fut jouée au Théâtre du Châtelet le 18 mai 1917 sous la direction d’Ernest Ansermet. La presse qualifia ce spectacle d’“entreprise de démolition des valeurs nationales”, ce fut un succès de... scandale pour Erik Satie et une publicité pour l’évolution de la nouvelle musique. (Marie Françoise Bourdot, “Erik Satie 1866-1925 et l’intelligentsia parisienne”)
Source : Cobussen, Marcel (?), “Noise as Undesirable Sound”, In “Deconstruction in Music”, Interactive Dissertation, Department of Art and Culture Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Urls : http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/variations/scores/bgz3235/large/index.html (last visited ) http://pagesperso-orange.fr/symphonique.chorale/documents/satie/satie.htm (last visited ) http://www.cobussen.com/ (last visited )

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