Listen to the Recess! Clip
Picture Book Artists Transcript
Brief sound clip
That’s the opening for Erik Satie’s first Gymnopidie for piano. It was a very experimental piece to have written at the time, during the late 1800s, though it was one of the tamer things that Monsieur Satie composed during his career at the front of the avant garde in France. Satie’s tempestuous life story, unlikely as it might seem, has become a picture book for young children — Strange Mr. Satie by M. T. Anderson, with pictures by Petra Mathers. Satie would continue to provide some of the most unusual music to go with the first decades of the twentieth century, including a ballet, Parade, with sets and costumes by Picasso and some of its music played on typewriters and sirens. As this beautiful, sad homage unfolds, we realize that it not distant, but rather a subject close to the hearts of many children — who, like Satie, often feel their own, unique visions are misunderstood.
Satie often used cryptic instructions for those who would play his music. He might write, Anderson explains, that he was after a sound like: “yellowing velvet,” or “a hat of solid mahogany” or “the end of the eyes.” Children, I know, would understand what he meant.
In another portrait of the artist as a child, we go to the seashore with the young Salvador Dali, and watch as he lifts the edge of the ocean, like the border of a blue sheet stretching to infinity, to claim a key that lies, glimmering, beneath the surface of the water. With the key safely tucked away in his pocket, young Salvi, goes for a ride across the desert on a long-legged elephant, meets a chef who is baking clocks that look like giant pancakes, and takes a small boat that leads him through the clouds to a tower topped by seven eggs. Inside he finds a single piano key that …. well, I don’t want to spoil the surreal finale of this remarkable book. It’s called Dali and the Path of Dreams, and it’s by the Spanish author Anna Obiols, with illustrations by the Catalonian artist, Joan Subirana. And it’s sure to start the dreams flowing in your household this summer; don’t be surprised if your youngsters aren’t looking under the edges of things, too — to find their own keys, and their own paths.