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The Emergence of the Subconscious in Erik Satie’s “Parade”: The Search for Surrealism in Sound

28 August 2020

14:00 - 15:00 hrs (GMT+7)

Tanaporn Rajatanavin, Speaker


This paper presentation investigates possible connections between the music of Erik Satie (1866-1925) and the later surrealist movement, with particular focus on Parade (1917). I seek to understand surrealism in music through the idea of self-exploration, a well-established interpretive approach in studies of surrealism in the visual arts. 

This study attempts to redefine surrealism in music not as a set of concrete musical characteristics, but as a collection of techniques meant to evoke subconscious turbulence by blurring the boundary between the “outside” and “inside,” between conscious and subconscious, leading to a new discovery of higher or deeper truth. Satie’s music aligns with the psychoanalytic elements of the discourse on surrealism. Psychoanalysis, pioneered by Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and his followers in the 1890s in Vienna, permeated France around the time of the creation of the work. 

It inspired early surrealist techniques like automatism, illusory formal structures, collage, and stylistic allusion. This paper presentation demonstrates that such techniques can be discerned throughout Parade, not only in Satie’s score, but also in its scenario, staging, costumes, and choreography. As such, Parade was a foundational work for the surrealist movement, with Satie’s music contributing along with other media equally to create the emotional and psychological impact of the ballet.

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