Traveling should be fun but it should also be relaxing. We often find ourselves drained out of energy at the half of our journey, with so much left to see and experience. That’s why a good resting policy has to find a place in your tight traveling schedule. A firm night sleep, a nap during the day, an interesting book or some good old TV-time will do the trick in most cases. One of the best ways to relax, however, is music. You can’t watch TV while on a plane or a bus, you can’t read a book while walking from spot A to spot B but you can listen to relaxing music wherever and almost whenever. All you need is a playback device, most often your phone, and a pair of decent headphones.

But is all music relaxing?

Of course, it is not! People usually loosen up by listening to their favorite artists or albums. But sometimes there is that need for something new, unpredictable, unheard, something neutral that will calm you down just by playing in the background. Many will recommend classical music but is all classical music relaxing? Of course not! You certainly won’t tranquilize yourself by putting on “Infernal Dance” by Stravinsky or “Aquarium” by Camille Saint-Saëns. So, is there a universal recipe for a cool off? Yes, there is and its author is Erik Satie, one of the most interesting figures in the 20th-century world of music.

The strange life of Erik Satie

Erik Satie

Erik Satie was a French composer and among the most influential artist in the late 19th- and early 20th-century Parisian avant-garde. His musical work is considered a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd.

In 1879, Satie entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he earned the title “the laziest student.” His colleagues often mocked him. Even his friends had a doubtful relationship with him: Debussy gave him the nickname “Mr.Precursor” while Ravel called him “brilliant and clumsy.”

Satie was a brilliant yet highly eccentric composer. His music is absolutely singular in terms of originality. It seems that he drew inspiration from his contemporaries (and vice versa) but somehow managed to remain intact by the prominent musical forms. His minimalist approach went generally undermined at the time but the influence he left on subsequent generations of musicians is undeniable.

“It’s not a question of Satie’s relevance. He’s indispensable.”
John Cage

Erik Satie’s life was even stranger than his music was at the time in Paris. He was known for many unusual habits and practices. For instance, he had seven identical, grey velvet corduroy suits which he wore, with no exception or variation, for more than 10 years. He proclaimed that he only ate white food. Before turning thirty, Satie left Montmartre and settled in a crappy suburban one-room flat where no one was allowed to visit. He carried a hammer in his packet all the time for protection. Satie was dismissed from the Army after deliberately infecting himself with bronchitis. Another peculiarity is that after leaving the Mystical Order of the Rose and Cross of the Temple and Grail, an occult sect founded by Joséphin Péladan, the French composer established his own religious order named Église Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur, in which he was the only congregant. Perhaps the strangest thing of all is that he didn’t consider himself a composer, not even a musician.

“Everyone will tell you that I am not a musician. That is correct. From the very beginning of my career, I classed myself as a phonometrographer. My work is completely phonometrical. Take my Fils des Etoiles, or my Morceaux en Forme d’une Poire, my En Habit de Cheval, or my Sarabandes — it is evident that musical ideas played no part whatsoever in their composition. Science is the dominating factor…I think I can say that phonology is superior to music. There’s more variety to it.”

Erik Satie, 1912

The therapeutic effects of Satie’s music

Santiago Rusinol Portrait of Eric Satie

Satie’s compositions are entrancing. They can sooth everybody, from kids to adults. The repetitious forms and floating structures seem to provide the same effect on anyone that has been exposed to his music. In a sense, his music is simple, straightforward in terms of harmony, using short melodies with little development. On the other hand, it is ambivalent, sad and happy at the same time. What’s most relaxing is that the emotional amplitude of his compositions is very narrow. It leaves you in a space of carefree joy, without ever surprising you with sudden or intense shifts. Satie left instructions for the performers in his score sheets like “wonder about yourself” or “open your mind” which pretty much describe the general idea behind his work. It was designed as background music way before the term became popular with the rise of composers such as John Cage or Brian Eno. Satie’s musical legacy, especially his Gymnopedies, are what many consider to be the groundwork for today’s ambient music. It is deeply reflective, meditative, and ethereal – a perfect travel companion for your next journey.

Clouds and music go well together

Is there anything as relaxing as music? Well, sitting on the coast and watching the clouds pass by on a beautiful bright day will also do the work. So, we made sure you get the whole package – we uploaded an 8+ minute video from Malta and combined it with the music of Erik Satie for the full loosen-up experience. The video is shot on the shores of Valletta, the capital of Malta, overlooking the village of Kalkara. It’s a beautiful time-lapse cloudscape, looped several times for extended pleasure. The music is performed by Kevin MacLeod (licensed under a CCAttribution license.) Enjoy and don’t forget to subscribe!

Beautiful Time Lapse Video with Music by Erik Satie