Artist Francis Picabia, who conceived and designed the performance of Relâche, took part in the beginnings of Dadaism in Zurich, and later Paris. You really want to click on the picture above to see Ohne Tile from 1928 in it's full glory. (From Galerie Hauser & Wirth)
|Erik Satie was the person
from the musical world closest to the Dada movement in art.
It's hard to get a grasp on what Dada
really means, but I suppose this is part of
the point. The Dada
art movement occurred between Picasso's cubism and Dali's surrealism.
Dada is nonsensical, subversive, and sometimes annoying. Like Frank Zappa,
Monty Python. You can visit the Dada
Net Circus if you wish, but I assume no liability for your experiences
|Here's the frontispiece to Relâche by Picabia. What is going on in this picture? (Thanks to Professor Robert Orledge)|
This was Satie’s last work. The term "Relâche" is used by theaters to indicate that they have closed. When the audience arrived at the theater on the night announced in the posters, it found the theater dark and closed. The real opening was three days later. Picabia wrote "Relâche has no meaning … When will we lose the habit of explaining everything? The background consisted of a wall of oversize phonograph records. The main personages were a Fireman and a Woman in evening dress. There were dances of a revolving door (porte tournante), wheel-barow (brouette), and crown (couronne). A group of eight men in evening dress, undress and dress on stage. The crown is placed on the head of a member of the audience. The woman rejoins her armchair.
Darrius Milhaud's notes:
Relâche was given for the first time at the Théâtre des Champs Elyseés in 1924. It is on a book and with settings by Francis Picabia, a ballet in two acts commissioned and staged by the Ballets Suédois of Rolf de Maré, choreography by Jean Borlin, It was the height of the Surrealist period. Between the two acts there was an important innovation, a performance of René Clair's film Entr'acte with music by Satie. To the delight of spectators, Satie and Picabia appeared themselves in the film. The music of Relâche ranges from truculence of certain marching songs to the exquisite tenderness of the accompaniments to the dances of "La Femme."
In the marvelous '20s, everything went, and the audience was not surprised at the end of the premiére of Relâche, to see Satie arrive on stage, to the acclaim of his cheering friends, in a little 5 horsepower Citroën car driven by Picabia.
1924, 24 minutes
Directed by Rene Clair
Written by Francis Picabia
Music by Erik Satie
Originally commisioned as the interval for the dadaist ballet Relache,
Entr'acte is a plotless romp that teases the audience with
a series of visual non sequiturs, featuring among its incidental characters
Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray (appearing as chess players).
In 1924 the second film directed by Rene Clair, Entr'acte, was
made to be shown at the intermission of the single performance of the ballet
Relâche, a work created by artist Francis Picabia and
composer Erik Satie that was regarded as one of the last formal outbursts
of Dadaism. The movie features appearances by Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray
along with music by Satie, who also acts in the film, but his score isn't
part of the current film version, according to Minderman. (Dean Minderman,
New Music Circle, St. Lousis)
Francis Picabia shows-off his dancing talents in Entr'acte
Satie not only wrote the music for, but also made a brief appearance
in Rene Clair's film, Entr'acte, a surreal comedy of dark
and strange humour featuring a runaway hearse and a bearded ballet dancer.
Entr'acte was first shown as part of a ballet devised by
The ballet, a wonderfully dadaesque affair, caused mayhem in the audience. At the end of the performance, Satie and Picabia squeezed into a tiny Citroen car and puttered round the stage waving at the noisily disapproving crowd.
Called simply Relache, the ballet gave Satie the opportunity to write music around such concepts as 'The Dance of the Revolving Door' and today, whilst the ballet itself has virtually been forgotten, the music lingers on.
From Satie article (a very good one!) by Bill Nelson in New Musical Express.
Here are some interesting comments from the discussion group:
Satie's music to this film was one of the very first instances (if not the first) of a film score composed frame-by-frame, so that the music will match exactly with the visuals. His score has been published (for piano solo) by Salabert (1972) but I don't know where anyone could find this - I was given a photocopy for use in my Honours research paper by my tutor, and have been unable to replace it with an original. Does anyone know if there is a video (PAL format, preferably) of Entr'acte available, with the original Satie score? I saw a version at the University of Queensland in 1995 that had a (Haydn?) string quartet as the music - very strange - I ended up turning off the sound! Any assistance on this point would be gratefully received - I've been looking for this video for 2 years!
Recordings of the music from Entr'acte have been made by the Radio Luxembourg Orchestra, Yuri Takahashi, Koji Ueno, Ars Nova Ensemble, and Riri Shimada. From a review of the Ars Nova Ensemble LP:
Satie’s Relâche is usually described as a "ballet instantanéiste" in two acts, none of the standard recordings of which includes the "Entr’acte Cinematographique" - understandably in that it is longer than the music of either act. Relâche (1924) was among the first successful ventures in multimedia surrealism and the film, which showed, among other things, Satie firing cannon and crawling over the argoyles of Notre Dame, was directed by none other than the young Réne Clair. To accompany this the composer wrote a piece designed not to draw attention to itself through a developing musical argument, but simply to underline the visual action. Actually, this new performance makes the "Entr’acte" sound more insistent, almost obsessive in its repetitions, though partly because it was recorded with greater presence than on Vox.
Finally, an Entr'acte link for Francophiles