French composer Erik Satie was born in Honfleur, Normandy in 1866. His English mother had him baptized in the Anglican church, but after her death, Erik was sent to live with his French grandparents, who had him re-baptized as a Catholic. In his late teens he spent a year at the Paris Conservatory, where his teachers were by all accounts unimpressed with him. After dropping out of music school he joined the French army, but was discharged a few months later after he deliberately infected himself with bronchitis. In his mid-twenties he joined a Rosicrucian sect, another enthusiasm that didn’t last long. After leaving the Rosicrucians, Satie founded his own church, which he called “L’Église Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur” (Metropolitan Art Church of Jesus the Conductor), of which he was the sole member.
When he was twenty-seven, Satie fell in love with an artist named Suzanne Paladin, but that too proved unsuccessful; she refused his proposal of marriage and left him with a broken heart. So far as historians know, that was Satie’s last romantic relationship, although he lived another thirty-two years — a remarkable accomplishment for a man who drank as heavily as he did, and who by his own account consumed only white food.*
Here is Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, performed by Alessio Nanni.
*According to Satie’s memoir, “white food” included “eggs, sugar, shredded bones, the fat of dead animals, veal, salt, coconuts, chicken cooked in white water, moldy fruit, rice, turnips, sausages in camphor, pastry, cheese (white varieties), cotton salad, and certain kinds of fish” — and if you’re wondering what in the world “cotton salad” is, your guess is as good as mine.