Bohemian Paris Lates: Music at the Cabarets Artistiques

Dr Charlotte de Mille, Freelance Music Curator at The Courtauld Institute of Art

In tribute to our Bohemian Paris Lates (Thursday 3 July and 14 August, 6-9pm) I have put together a Spotify playlist inspired by music from the era.

‘Do not forget what we owe to the Music-Hall, to the Circus’. 

So Erik Satie admonished the younger generation of composers. Nonetheless, Satie’s own creative output was mainly at the smaller, more intimate ‘cabaret artistique’.

The larger music hall and café-concert venues mixed circus entertainment with a public dance floor, whilst the esoteric design of the cabaret artistique offered a mixture of poetry, chansons, operettas and shadow theatres. 

Cabaret Artistique: The Chat Noir

Cabaret Artistique: The Chat Noir

For this playlist, I’ve concentrated on music written for and played at the cabaret artistiques, the Chat Noir, and the Auberge du Clou.

First introduced to the charismatic owner of the Chat Noir Rudolphe Salis in 1887 as ‘Erik Satie, gymnopédist!’, it was at the Chat Noir that the Gymnopédies, Gnossienes, and Ogives probably had their first hearing.

The three series of pieces for solo piano were advertised in Le Chat Noir journal in 1888, ‘conceived in the mystical-liturgical genre’ by the ‘sphinx-man.’

In contrast to the lavish spectacles of the Moulin Rouge or Folies-Bergère, the Chat Noir’s theatricality was orchestrated through medieval décor, and Satie’s Chanson Medieval is one musical example of this.

But Satie’s pieces for solo piano were often interspersed with movements from Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli. I’ve therefore followed suit in the playlist (watch out!) . Debussy’s Proses lyriques (1893) were dedicated to Vital Hocquet, humorist famous for introducing Erik Satie to Rudolphe Salis at the Chat Noir cabaret in 1887.

Whilst in this context the medievalizing content of “De Rêve” possibly owes a debt to the décor of the Chat Noir, dream, loss, and the passing of time are recurrent themes across all four songs.

Writing for Hyspa and the singer Paulette Darty, Satie produced a number of songs specifically for the Chat Noir. Of the twenty-eight manuscripts, Je te veux (1897 or 1901), Tendrement (1902), La Diva de l’Empire (1904) are perhaps the most well known.

Where Tendrement has been described as a ‘sung waltz’, perhaps written under the influence of Darty’s usual Viennese composer, Rodolphe Berger, La Diva de l’Empire is a classic cakewalk with the syncopated rhythm of rag-time America, introduced to Paris through Sousa marches.

Debussy occasionally played the piano at the cabaret Auberge du Clou, where Satie encouraged him to make use of a cabaret style: the result a song, La Belle au bois dormant (July 1890), to a text by Vincent Hyspa.

At the Chat Noir, the shadow-theatre regularly demanded up to twenty-three instrumentalists and fourteen singers.

In contrast to these extravagant orchestrations, cabarets at both the Chat Noir and Auberge du Clou also provided a nursery for poète-chansonniers (singer-songwriters) such as Yvette Guilbert who would later grace the stage in vaudeville tours de chant of some larger café-concerts such as the Casino de Paris.

Bohemian Paris Lates, Thursday 3 July and 14 August 2014, 6-9pm

Read more about Music in Montmartre  [PDF]

Trials and triumphs of student curating: MA Curating Exhibition 2014

Madeleine Kennedy, MA Curating the Art Museum student and co-curator of Impress: Print Making Expanded in Contemporary Art.

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After months of planning, today we finally begin installing Impress: Print Making Expanded in Contemporary Art.

In the last two weeks the curating process has really gained momentum. Last Wednesday my day was filled with a solid nine hours of meetings, beginning in the upper galleries of The Courtauld Gallery, hours before they were opened to the public.

With the galleries deserted, we took the opportunity to take a peek under the floorboards. We needed to figure out where the power source should come from for one of the most ‘expanded’ prints in Impress, a kinetic sculpture by Mona Hatoum.

It was one of those moments when you realise how much of curating is about working creatively within constraints – being part of a grade 1 listed building, The Courtauld Gallery doesn’t have plugs just anywhere!

View of Students Checking out the sockets under the floorboards in the gallery.

Checking out the sockets under the floorboards in the gallery.

Another matter to be decided on Wednesday was that of wall colours. With Farrow and Ball having kindly offered to supply our paint for free, all we had to do was pick the colour which worked best in the space. This sounds easy but we were faced with a bewildering array of paint options – which colour would you have chosen? Let us know on @MACurating.

View of Marian and Charlotte ponder some of the colour samples in the space, trying to envisage which best complements and unifies all the works in the show.

Marian and Charlotte ponder some of the colour samples in the space, trying to envisage which best complements and unifies all the works in the show.

My next jaunt was to meet with the Public Programmes department. As a member of the events team, I had taken my responsibilities very seriously. I made a habit of going to as many museum late events as possible, including the  The Courtauld Lates.

With our heads filled with ideas, we began discussing the practicalities of running a series of creative workshops. After long hours negotiating back and forth with a printmaking artist, a poet, tutors, security, finance and so on, the events schedule will soon be ready to publish. Watch this space for details.

View of Activities at the Museums at Night Lates: Printmaking at the House of Illustration.

Museums at Night Lates: Printmaking at the House of Illustration.

View of Activities at the Museums at Night Lates: Public participation installation at The Guildhall Art Gallery.

Museums at Night Lates: Public participation installation at The Guildhall Art Gallery.

View of Activities at the Museums at Night Lates: Live music at the Court and Craft Late at The Courtauld Gallery.

Museums at Night Lates: Live music at the Court and Craft Late Night Opening at The Courtauld Gallery.

My day was rounded off with a visit to Bullet Creative in South London. This was the first consultation with the graphic designer about our hopes for the booklet to accompany the exhibition. We saw the first options for the cover design on Thursday, and by the following Wednesday the entire design was almost complete.

Fourteen versions later, this morning the booklet went to print. I could not believe how quickly it has all come together – all credit to the text and interpretation team who generated the writing, and our ever-patient designer at Bullet.

Now galleries 13 and 14 have been emptied: The Courtauld’s modern masters which hung there until a few days ago have been safely stored away, and the space has become an empty shell ready to be transformed into Impress. It feels like a surreal honour for these works to have made way for our exhibition. We can’t wait to see it realised.

Picture of Stuart contemplating where Wassily Kandinsky’s The Red Circle, 1939 used to hang

Stuart contemplating where Wassily Kandinsky’s The Red Circle, 1939 used to hang.

You can keep up to date in the countdown to the opening on 20 June by staying tuned to our MA Curating Instragram and Twitter.