Erick Satie and João Donato

Paulo Pasta, Untitled, 2022, Oil on canvas, 160 x 120 cm


Parallels between two poets of musical synthesis

The title of this article could be João Satie, or Erick Donato. The purpose of this article – and any article is just a proposal played on the board of ideas, not a sentence – to draw a parallel between two seminal figures of XNUMXth century music, each in their own context.

Erick Satie is considered one of the forerunners of musical minimalism. Born in Normandy in 1866, he moved to Paris in 1878, and entered the Paris Conservatory, where he was considered mediocre. To survive, he became a cabaret pianist, the famous Chat Noir. He flirted with ragtime, precursor of jazz. He rubbed shoulders with big names in the art scene, and his original personality captivated people like Picasso, Debussy (who orchestrated his pieces), Ravel and Cocteau.

João Donato, born in Acre in 1934, was born into a musical family, and started out playing the accordion. He went with his family to Rio de Janeiro in 1945, and began to frequent the restricted alternative music circuit at the time, which was then dominated by samba-canção. He flirted with Jazz, successor of ragtime, approached Bossa Nova musicians and composers, without ever fully adhering to the style. His Amazonian heart was closer to the Caribbean than to the apartments in Ipanema, and this was reflected in his musical production.

Erick Satie had a great love in his life, Suzanne Valadon, an artist who was best known for being a model for Degas and Renoir, masters of impressionism. João Donato had several loves, but none like Leila, to whom he dedicated several compositions, called Leilíadas. In the 90s, João Donato spent almost 20 years without recording. Erick Satie, returned to study music at almost forty years old, after spending 15 years without composing. That's what the legend says...

What is common in the creations of these extraordinary men? The extraordinary capacity for synthesis, for decanting musical ideas. With few notes and seemingly simple harmonies, they manage to create absolutely original atmospheres. One more melancholy, lunar, the other totally solar, but attentive to the changing musical world in which they lived. Without following currents, averse to fads, they created paths where they absorbed and personally shaped the musical forms that led to the path of crystallization of an idea: musical haikais, melodic and rhythmic cells that became paradigmatic, and that in a few measures make explicit an atmosphere.

Both were considered crazy. It is said that Erick Satie one day called his friend Debussy to hear a new chord he had discovered, and Claude Debussy had to help (or dissuade him) to push the piano through the second floor window. Donato's latest album has a photograph of him naked with his friend Macalé on the cover.

Both left unforgettable works, which we recognize when listening to the first notes. While the French reflected an atmosphere of melancholy and solitude in his small musical sculptures, the Brazilian was born to dance. He played with musicians from several generations, lived in the USA, accompanied notable singers, wrote countless musical mobiles whose charm is renewed with each listening.

How lucky we are to be able to enjoy the art of these adorable freaks!

* Daniel Brazil is a writer, author of the novel  suit of kings (Penalux), screenwriter and TV director, music and literary critic.

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