Erik Satie

Ludions, song cycle for voice & piano

    Description by Alexander Carpenter

    This short cycle of five songs for voice and piano was completed in May of 1923, and received its private premier at the end of that month. The five songs-"Air du Rat," "Spleen," La Grenouille americaine," "Air du Poete," and "Chanson du chat"-are all settings of humorous poems by Leon-Paul Fargue. Fargue was an old friend of Satie's, who had previously set one of Fargue's poems, "Statue de Bronze," in 1916. Like Satie, Fargue delighted in the sights and sounds of the city of Paris, and the whimsical cabaret flavor of Satie's music was well suited to Fargue's lyrics.

    The first piece in the cycle, "Air du Rat," is a setting of a text written by Fargue at the age of ten, memorializing his pet rat. Satie uses a pentatonic melody and repetitive diatonic chords to capture what Eric Gillmor calls Fargue's "childlike vision." "Spleen" is a funny little song in which an atmosphere of reflection and nostalgia is created, only to be destroyed as the poet is suddenly revealed as longing not for an ideal woman, but for "a cute, worthless blonde in this cabaret of Nothingness which is our life." Satie juxtaposed major and minor keys to represent this dualism. "Air du Poete," the fourth song in the cycle, is the shortest at a mere ten measures. Once again, a pentatonic melody is heard, accompanied by a static chord progression. "La Grenouille americaine" and "Chanson du chat" are, as Gillmor notes, "straight out of the cabaret," spiced-up with some Satiean harmonies.

    As is often the case with Satie's music, Ludions did not escape scandal. At one of its premiers (either private or public), the songs were announced as Satie's creations, and the poet Fargue was not mentioned. Fargue was incensed, and began a campaign of insulting letter writing against Satie, allegedly culminating in a letter whose contents were so foul and unrepeatable that Satie could only laugh. Thus, the dispute was ended.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Air du rat (Rat's tune)
    2. Spleen
    3. La grenouille américaine (The American Frog)
    4. Air du poète (Poet's Tune)
    5. Chanson du chat (Cat's Song)

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 MDG MDG 6131926
    2015 Erato / Warner Classics 0825646047963
    2014 Solo Musica SM 208
    2014 Harmonia Mundi HMX 290871015
    2011 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099990723
    2011 EMI Classics
    2010 EMI Classics / Warner Classics 5099968582
    2010 Jaro / Zebralution
    2009 Harmonia Mundi HMC902017/18
    2009 Harmonia Mundi 902017
    2008 Wergo 6806
    2007 Zephyr 129
    2006 Philips 4657706
    2006 LTM LTMCD 2459
    1999 Chandos 9147
    1993 Denon Records 1289
    1992 Nimbus 5027
    Philips 412628
    Arsis 99031
    Vox 5107
    Gallo 831