You are not as dumb as I thought
Erik Satie's abusive letters to a music critic
The following letters are a bit rude and can be found in the book, Letters of Note: Music. I’m also including audio below, featuring a reading of these messages by the one and only Adrian Edmondson, who kindly brought them to life for the Letters of Note: Music audiobook.
Eccentric. Weird. Unusual. All words regularly used to describe both the character and work of Erik Satie, a celebrated French pianist of limited technical expertise whose compositions attracted attention far and wide thanks to their offbeat angular jaunty nature and their overriding brilliance. When it came to accepting criticism, however, Satie was less successful. On 18 May 1917 a ballet named Parade premiered at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, with music by Satie, writing by Jean Cocteau and set design courtesy of Pablo Picasso. Much to Satie’s annoyance, this impressive roster of talent somehow failed to rescue the show from a savaging by Jean Poueigh, a music critic with whom Satie had shaken hands after the event. Having read the review, and feeling particularly betrayed after their fleeting contact, Satie wrote him a note. And then he sent another. And then another. Sensibly, Poueigh remained silent, instead choosing to sue Satie for slander. The composer was sentenced to eight days in jail for his troubles, and Cocteau was arrested for screaming obscenities in the courtroom.
30 May 1917
To Jean Poueigh
Sir and dear friend,
What I know is that you are an ass-hole, and, if I dare say so, an unmusical ass-hole. Above all, never again offer me your dirty hand.
3 June 1917
To Monsieur Jean Poueigh, Head Flop, Chief Gourds and Turkey,
You are not as dumb as I thought. Despite your bonehead air and your short-sightedness, you see things at a great distance.
5 June 1917
To Monsieur Fuckface Poueigh, Famous Pumpkin and Composer for Nitwits,
Lousy ass-hole, this is from where I shit on you with all my force.