Erik Satie: Memoirs of An Amnesiac #6 - Intelligence and Musicality Observed on Animals Poem by Oilibheir Álain Christie

Erik Satie: Memoirs of An Amnesiac #6 - Intelligence and Musicality Observed on Animals

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The intelligence of animals is above all denial.
But what does Man do to improve the mental state of those resigned fellow-citizens?
He provides them with a mediocre education, quite disconnected, incomplete, one such as a child would not want for himself; and he would be right, dear little being.
This learning consists mainly in developing the instinct of cruelty and vice that exists atavistically within individuals.
The content of such teaching never deals with art or literature, or natural sciences,
moral science, or such other discipline.
Homing pigeons are in no way prepared for their mission by any use of geography;
fish are kept away from the study of oceanography; cattle, sheep, calves are unaware of the sensible layout of a modern slaughterhouse, and do not know their nutritional role in the society that was formed by Man.
Few animals benefit human instruction.
Dogs, mules, horses, donkeys, parrots, blackbirds and a few others are the only animals that receive some kind of teaching.
And still, is it more an upbringing than anything else.
Compare, I beg of you, this teaching to that given by the universities to a young human freshman, and you see that it is void and cannot extend nor facilitate the knowledge that the animal will have acquired through its own work, and its dedication to it.
But musically?
Horses have learned how to dance;
spiders hung under a piano for the duration of a long concert,
concert organized for them by a respected master of the keyboard.
And after that?
Nothing.
Now and then, we are told of the musicality of the starling,
of the melodic memory of the raven,
of the harmonic ingenuity of the owl, that accompanies herself by tapping the abdomen,
Quite an artificial medium and of mean polyphony.
As for the nightingale always mentioned,
his musical knowledge brings a shrug to the most ignorant of his listeners.
Not only his voice is not placed,
but he has no knowledge or key or tone, or modality, or beat.
Perhaps he is gifted?
It is possible;
it's even certain.
But we can say that his artistic culture does not equal his natural gifts,
and that his voice, which he shows himself so proud of,
is but an very inferior instrument, and quite useless per se.

Erik Satie


[Rendered into English by O. Á. Christie
used as subtitles available under the 'closed captions' menu
for the video 'Erik Satie's 'Mémoires d'un Amnésique' read live by OÁC']


And here is the ORIGINAL TEXT:

Mémoires d'un Amnésique (6) - L'Intelligence et la Musicalité chez les Animaux

L'intelligence des animaux est au-dessus de toute négation.

Mais que fait l'homme pour améliorer l'état mental de ces concitoyens résignés? 
Il leur offre une instruction médiocre, espacée, incomplète, 
 telle qu'un enfant n'en voudrait pas pour lui-même:
et il aurait raison, le cher petit être.
Cette instruction consiste surtout à développer l'instinct de cruauté et de vice qui existe ataviquement chez les individus.Il n'est jamais question, dans les programmes de cet enseignement, ni d'art, ni de littérature, ni de sciences naturelles, morales, ou d'autres matières.
Les pigeons voyageurs ne sont nullement préparés, à leur mission, par un usage de la géographie;
les poissons sont tenus à l'écart de l'étude de l'océanographie;
les bœufs, les moutons, les veaux ignorent tout de l'agencement raisonné d'un abattoir moderne,
et ne savent pas quel est leur rôle nutritif dans la société que s'est constituée l'homme.

Peu d'animaux bénéficient de l'instruction humaine.
Le chien, le mulet, le cheval, l'âne, le perroquet,
le merle et quelques autres, sont les seuls animaux qui reçoivent un semblant d'instruction.
Encore, est-ce plutôt de l'éducation qu'autre chose.
Comparez, je vous prie, cette instruction à celle donnée par les universités à un jeune bachelier humain,
et vous voyez qu'elle est nulle et qu'elle ne peut étendre ni faciliter
les connaissances que l'animal aura pu acquérir par ses travaux, par son assiduité à ceux-ci.
Mais, musicalement?
Des chevaux ont appris à danser;
des araignées se sont tenues sous un piano pendant toute la durée d'un long concert,
concert organisé pour elles par un maître respecté du clavier.
Et après?
Rien.
Par-ci, par-là, on nous entretient de la musicalité du sansonnet,
de la mémoire mélodique du corbeau,
de l'ingéniosité harmonique du hibou qui s'accompagne en se tapant sur le ventre,
moyen purement artificiel et de mince polyphonie.
Quant au rossignol, toujours cité,
son savoir musical fait hausser les épaules au plus ignorant de ses auditeurs.
Non seulement sa voix n'est pas posée,
mais il n'a aucune connaissance ni des clefs, ni de la tonalité, ni de la modalité, ni de la mesure.
Peut-être est-il doué?
C'est possible;
c'est même certain.
Mais on peut affirmer que sa culture artistique n'égale pas ses dons naturels,
et que cette voix, dont il se montre si orgueilleux,
n'est qu'un instrument très inférieur et inutile en soi.

Erik Satie

Erik Satie: Memoirs of An Amnesiac #6 - Intelligence and Musicality Observed on Animals
POET'S NOTES ABOUT THE POEM
This is a translation which I wrote to use as subtitles for my video "Erik Satie's "Memoirs of an Amnesiac" #6 spoken LIVE by OÁC - French Urtext / English subs".
The original French is underneath.

«Mémoires d'un amnésique» appears as an overtitle for a series of six short articles Satie wrote for a couple of years and which were published in "Revue musicale S.I.M." between April 19.
Believe it or not, there are still many people who are grossly ignorant of the literary production of Eric Satie. All they know is some of his piano music and most of the time they are incapable of identifying the piece. And sometime they don't even know Satie composed it.
Some twenty odd years ago, I had a partner who was a pianist, and she was quite a fan of Satie. When I told her that I had managed to retrieve a copy of some of the humorous articles Satie had written (genuine pieces of prose poetry) ., we decided upon devising a "music & spoken word" show entirely devoted to Satie. There was an audio recording of these performances but they were unfortunately lost when I was deprived of my home.
COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Daniel Brick 22 March 2017

This is absolutely brilliant, mon ami, what rapier wit in the service of the animals who must be sacrificed for our human pride, no, our human obtuseness. We should immediately declare a diet of salads and coffee for all French-speaking people, oh, enfers, we'll throw in the English-speakers too! And that spider, that heroic, music-loving spider, will be honored in my next spidery etude. And you, dear Erik, it has too long. Come next weekend to Chaussons and we will go boating. And we will surrender the afternoon to a concert of birds while we rest our brains and let the sun heal our restless selves. Adieu. my friend, this weekend! !

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BTW, Daniel, I have used Erik Satie's Gnossienne #5 to accompany my rendition of Yeats' 16 Dead Men. I don't think anyone had ever thought of associating them before; which I find almost surprising. Satie & Yeats are perfect contemporaries. :) If you watch the video sometime, let me know how you've liked the combination. Thanks for your nice comment. :)

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Dr Antony Theodore 23 April 2016

Homing pigeons are in no way prepared for their mission by any use of geography; fish are kept away from the study of oceanography; cattle, sheep, calves are unaware of the sensible layout of a modern slaughterhouse, and do not know their nutritional role in the society that was formed by Man. this is a really beautiful poem my friend. really really this is fine. full of philosophy, nature obeservance. looking into the animals and birds and philosophizing........ marvelous poem. i add it to my favorite poems list. God bless us for making us think. tony

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Sekharan Pookkat 27 April 2015

why do we kill animals? let them lice in their natural situations. they will teach their children how to live. we the greedy men kills animals brutally - we put them in cages and tries to impose our own lessons for our mental pleasures. Is it good- why cant we give up animal flesh? continue discuession

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Sekharan, this is a humorous text. When Erik Satie writes «les bœufs, les moutons, les veaux ignorent tout de l’agencement raisonné d’un abattoir moderne, et ne savent pas quel est leur rôle nutritif dans la société que s’est constituée l’homme.», he doesn't mean anything serious. I'm not sure this is the right place for a philosophical discussion about man's role as a predator. ;)

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