Behave Yourself, Please: A Monkey is Watching You
How Music Informed the Writing of Satie et Cocteau: A Rehearsal of a Play of a Composer by a Poet.
by Mike Czuba
So how can Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau be Rock & Roll? After 18 months of writing and research, the answer is: easily. Rock & Roll is tension, aggression, attraction and desire and isn’t that what we want to see on our theatre stages? Satie was music. He created, influenced and foreshadowed. He was a precursor, a thorn, a distraction, a jester, and a magician. During my research I teased myself with these grand academic notions of breaking down and analyzing his music and layering them into the play. I set out to read different books on musical semiotics to decode the significance of his music. That all ended in a little under a week when I realized I was out of my depth. Music has been an integral part of my entire life, but I never learned how to read music or felt I needed to know the larger cultural significance of a suspended ninth chord. Music has always been a visceral, instinctual endeavour for me. So I deciphered what Satie said about his music (which was very little) and what others said about it, then distilled that information to permit those impulses to inform me, letting the music, not the theory of it, tell me where it wanted to go.
Another element of the music I wanted to utilize was its power as an entity. Yes, Satie wanted music to resemble a chair and not “go into convulsions,” but for my purposes I wanted the music to carry a certain amount of antagonism between the characters. Music was Satie’s (A)rt and the thing that Cocteau could never fully penetrate, so it already had an element of violence. It would not have been enough if all the Actor did was ‘talk’ because Cocteau is the poet and words are his domain. Having the Actor use certain pieces as metaphorical punches when he felt words alone were not making his point would allow the music to live on stage. An example of this musical antagonism is Satie’s Vexations, which I included as the intermission’s music. The piece is a repetitive, slightly dissonant work that Satie recommended be played 840 times and as Robert Orledge suggests in Satie the Composer can create “hallucinatory effects”. The title alone is antagonistic, hinting that Satie knew this piece of music would drive the player mad.
Cocteau - Cocteau needs Actor’. When I returned to review my old notes, I was struck by
how this ‘doodle’ had become the actual shape of the play and how it fit so easily into the very
shape of Satie’s music.
**Robert Orledge, a Satie scholar and composer in the UK, who has written two books about Satie, says the play is: “..A truly excellent piece of theatre which deals convincingly and imaginatively with one of the most fraught love-hate relationships in modern French art. It has real depth and excellent dramatic pacing and is a work of art in itself”
August 11th 2012 at the University Theatre, Calgary Alberta.The World Premiere of Satie et Cocteau: A Rehearsal of a Play of a Composer by a Poet is presented as a highlight during the Mountain View Summer Festival
Directed by Barry Yzereef
Starring: Aleksander Ristic, Trevor Rueger
Incidental music performed by musicians from the Mountain View Festival
Festival Pass $70 (adults) $50 students and seniors
Music Teacher’s Pass: $60 (bring students for free)
Single Tickets $20 (adult) $15 (students/seniors)
Free Pass with Student ID
Tickets can be ordered by: