Alma Mahler


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alma mahler Eric Satie's Socrate

Introduction

Erik Satie began work on Socrate in 1918. Having been absorbing the scandal of Parade and becoming quite popular in the Salons of the high-society of Paris, he started planning new works. Perhaps Debussy's death in the spring of that year was the final liberation he needed in order to be able to express himself seriously, for sarcasm is frequently a mask for over-sensitiveness and insecurity.

But that spring finally brought Satie great joy. He was invited everywhere, and was well respected by fellow musicians. He was receiving a fair amount of commissions, and no longer had to write cabaret music, which he loathed. Satie took on Socrate, commissioned by the princess de Polignac, with complete seriousness: I'm frightened to death of bungling this work. I want it to be as white and pure as antiquity.'(1) Satie was charmed with Socrates since his school days. He must have identified with the Greek philosopher, having also chosen a plain life, despising wealth and materialism, and living by the principles he preached. I always wanted to do something on Socrates,' he remarked to Darius Milhaud. It's such an unjust story!'(2)

Satie was a composer who was constantly looking for new directions in his art and re-examining the cultural excesses of the 19th century. Having abandoned the impressionistic harmonies he pioneered in the Sarabandes (1887) for a more dry style, centered around melody and delicate counterpoint, he formulated his aesthetics in 1917:

Do not forget that the melody is the Idea, the outline; as much as it is the form and the subject matter of a work. The harmony is an illumination, an exhibition of the object, its reflection'(3)

The first performance of Socrate was given on June 24th 1918, at the home of Jane Bathori, a singer of modern music, followed by a performance at the home of Comte Etienne de Beaumont and other private performances. Stravinsky attended one of these and remarked: The music of Socrates' death is touching and dignifying in a unique way [After performing Socrate] he [Satie] turned around at the end and said in perfect Bourgeoisie: "Voila, messieurs, dames." '(4)

The first "official" performance of Socrate was given in January 1920. The music raised hot arguments between those who loved it and those who thought it ridiculous. Satie's reaction: "Those who do not understand are requested by me to assume an attitude of submission and inferiority", but when he heard the hisses and boos he simply remarked "How strange!"

The Aesthetics of Socrate

My main thesis is this: Satie's drive in his art is the search for a meaning. Satie was constantly rejecting 19th century Bourgeois cultural and socio-political values. As will be discussed later, his music was to a degree a reaction against these values, embodied in the works of Debussy and Wagner. Later, Satie would join the communist party and become involved with Dada, but unlike the Dadaists, who wished to deconstruct language and destroy meanings, or the surrealists, who strove to expose all the inhibitions of modern society and cultivated scandal for its own sake'(5), Satie wished to deconstruct music and 'return to classical simplicity with a modern sensibility.'(6)

The Search for a Meaning and the Socratic Method

The Socratic method is a way of teaching or studying by asking questions. Thus the student is led to understand the subject by arriving at answers to specific question, and further questioning, until the subject at hand has been exhausted. In many discussions in the Dialogues, Socrates leads his disciples through a long series of questions, each one following from the answer to the previous, which finally lead the student to the answer. One of the things Socrates was famous for is his constant questioning of supposed masters of poetry, music, politics and other professions. He would show them how limited was their knowledge of their respective crafts(7).

A connection can be made here to Ecclesiastes, who asks: What gain has a man in return for all the labor in which he engages under the sun? Ecclesiastes proceeds to question every part of a man's life, though at the end he arrives at the conclusion that a man should enjoy his labor and strive to do good deeds. But this process of questioning can be ... more

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Oskar Kokoschka

Kokoschka was born in P–chlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-Portrait (1913, Museum of Modern Art).
Kokoschka was wounded in World War I (1914-1918) and diagnosed as psychologically unstable. He taught art at the Dresden Academy from 1919 to 1924. During this time he painted The Power of Music (1919, Dresden Paintings Collection, Dresden). A succeeding seven-year period of travel in Europe and the Middle East resulted in a number of robust, brilliantly colored landscapes and figure pieces, painted with great freedom and exuberance. Many of them are views of harbors, mountains, and cities.
Kokoschka, one of the artists denounced by the Nazi government of Germany as degenerate, moved in 1938 to England, where he painted antiwar pictures during World War II (1939-1945) and became a British subject in 1947. After the war he visited the United States and settled in Switzerland. He died in Montreux on February 22, 1980. Best known as a painter, Kokoschka was also a writer. His literary works include poetry and plays not translated into English and a collection of short stories, A Sea Ringed with Visions (1956; translated 1962).
His father was a silversmith from Prague who experienced financial difficulties when the market for such handcrafted goods dried out with mass industrialization. Oskar’s exposure to his father’s craftsmanship, however, was said to play a large part in his art and enthusiasm for craftsmanship.
In 1908, a book called The Dreaming Youths was published, and it featured illustrations by Kokoschka. They were done in a style that was indebted to Gustav Klimt, whose Secession group was going strong at the time. Kokoschka was teaching at the School of Arts and Crafts where he had studied himself under Franz Cizek. Cizek was among the first to recognize the young artist’s talents.
In Vienna, Kokoschka wrote dramas such as The Assassin, Murderer, and The Hope of Women; and they, along with his art, were considered too radical for the aristocracy. Despite support from architect Adolf Loos and good reaction from his participation in the 1908 and 1909 exhibits at the Kunstschau, Vienna was not kind to Kokoschka. In 1910, he moved to Berlin.
In Berlin, he got the help of Herwarth Walden, the founder and editor of the art journal Der Sturm and a proponent of Expressionism. Until the outset of World War I, Kokoschka painted portraits of German (and Austrian) intelligentsia in a style he called "black painting," as they, in his words, "painted the soul’s dirtiness." His portrait of poet Peter Altenberg, made in 1909, has the figure almost blending into the frame’s Expressionist background; and his portraits of Count Verona, Joseph de Montesquiou-Ferendac and Walden himself are textbook examples of the Expressionist, swirling, Van Gough-like images that evoked a sense of decadence.
Between 1912 and 1914, Kokoschka had a relationship with Alma Mahler, the widow of composer Gustav Mahler. She was a woman of great influence who had inspired no less than poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and was involved also with Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius. After World War I broke out, Kokoschka volunteered for the Imperial and Royal 15th Dragoons, and in 1915 he was sent to the front, where he was seriously injured. He was hospitalized several times in both Vienna and Stockholm and was discharged from military service in 1916.
In 1919, he was appointed to a professorship at the Dresden Academy, and when he left the Academy in 1924 he traveled for a decade through Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. He then stayed a while in the artistic quarter of Paris, but he never felt at home in that environment. Eventually, he returned to Vienna, where he completed Vienna, View From the Wilhelminberg for the Vienna Municipal Council.
In 1934, Kokoschka moved to Prague after being alarmed by political developments in Germany and Austria. There he met Olda ... more

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  • A: Oskar Kokoschka A: Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Kokoschka was born in P^chlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-Portrait (1913, ...
  • L: Eric Saties Socrate L: Eric Saties Socrate Eric Satie\'s Socrate Introduction Erik Satie began work on Socrate in 1918. Having been absorbing the scandal of Parade and becoming quite popular in the Salons of the high-society of Paris, he started planning new works. Perhaps Debussy\'s death in the spring of that year was the final liberation he needed in order to be able to express himself seriously, for sarcasm is frequently a mask for over-sensitiveness and insecurity. But that spring finally brought Satie great joy. He was invited ever...
  • M: Oskar Kokoschka M: Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Kokoschka was born in Pchlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-Portrait (1913, ...
  • A: Gustav Mahler A: Gustav Mahler Gustav Mahler Mahler was born in Kalischt, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860. At the time, Bohemia (later to form a major component of Czechoslovakia, and later the Czech Republic) was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, then enduring its final crumbling decades, and the region where Mahler spent his youth was strongly associate with the Czech independence movement. However, Mahler also was a Jew, and Jews in the region were associated by ethnic Czechs with Germans. Mahler famous quote is: I am thrice h...
  •  : Oskar Kokoschka : Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Kokoschka was born in P^chlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-...
  • M: Oskar Kokoschka M: Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Kokoschka was born in P^chlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-Portrait (1913, ...
  • A: Eric Saties Socrate A: Eric Saties Socrate Eric Satie\'s Socrate Introduction Erik Satie began work on Socrate in 1918. Having been absorbing the scandal of Parade and becoming quite popular in the Salons of the high-society of Paris, he started planning new works. Perhaps Debussy\'s death in the spring of that year was the final liberation he needed in order to be able to express himself seriously, for sarcasm is frequently a mask for over-sensitiveness and insecurity. But that spring finally brought Satie great joy. He was invited ever...
  • H: Oskar Kokoschka H: Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Kokoschka was born in Pchlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-Portrait (1913, ...
  • L: Gustav Mahler L: Gustav Mahler Gustav Mahler Mahler was born in Kalischt, Bohemia, on July 7, 1860. At the time, Bohemia (later to form a major component of Czechoslovakia, and later the Czech Republic) was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, then enduring its final crumbling decades, and the region where Mahler spent his youth was strongly associate with the Czech independence movement. However, Mahler also was a Jew, and Jews in the region were associated by ethnic Czechs with Germans. Mahler famous quote is: I am thrice h...
  • E: Oskar Kokoschka E: Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Oskar Kokoschka Kokoschka was born in P^chlarn, a Danube town, on March 1, 1886. He studied at the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts from 1905 to 1908. As an early exponent of the avant-garde expressionist movement, he began to paint psychologically penetrating portraits of Viennese physicians, architects, and artists. Among these works are Hans Tietze and Erica Tietze-Conrat (1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), August Forel (1910, Mannheim Art Gallery, Germany), and Self-...