"We must be the new player in the same old game, because to change the rules is to destroy the game and to throw it back to its starting point. Economy of means seems to me more difficult, but also more useful, than a too headstrong audacity. There is no point in smashing the door which you might open."
- Arthur Honegger
1920s PARIS. THE CULTURAL AND ARTISTIC HOTBED of our 20th century, a time as marked by its irreverence and sense of humor as for the art, music, and lasting influence it produced. Erik Satie. Jean Cocteau. Pablo Picasso. Scores of writers, painters, composers, and poets, all congregated in a city during a time of enormous cultural change, throwing off the constraints of Impressionism and embracing the Harlem Renaissance, Russian nationalism, and the absurd aesthetic in all its manifestations.
The cultural rebelliousness lit by Cocteau and driven by Satie spawned the next batch of eccentrics from which Les Six, a new musical avant-garde led by Satie and consisting of Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, Arthur Honegger, Louis Durey, Germaine Tailleferre, and Georges Auric, was born. Many of their early works were good-naturedly Dadaist and make witty use of quotation and parody, popular music-hall style as well as jazz - a self-consciously simple style reacting against both Romanticism and Impressionism
In a mere 15 years, tied together by friendship and artistic honesty, their "rebellion" produced a fresh attitude in music that worked beyond academic circles, driving a whole new path in French art and music. Their story, despite being largely forgotten, remains alive through their work, and today provides some of the most unconventional avenues into classical music while serving as a fascinating cultural chapter of the tumultuous 20th century.
Erik Satie: Learn more about the locus of Les Six with this biography, quotes, links to other resources, and more.
Les Six: Brief biographies of the group, along with notable quotes, images, and links.
Art of the Time: A virtual gallery of 1920s Paris, featuring paintings by noted artists of the time.
Ballet, Literature & Film: Discover how Satie and Les Six both influenced and were influenced by these other forms of creative expression.
Online Audio: Music of Satie and Les Six: Select any of the clips at right to enjoy the music of Satie and Les Six, or find the complete audio information here.
Program Playlist: View the complete playlist from Springtime in Paris: Satie, Les Six, and the Café Culture, hosted by Brandi Parisi and airing nationwide this spring. Check your local public radio station for broadcast dates and times.