Ode to a Grand Staircase

by Erik Satie
Illustrated and produced by Julie Chen at Flying Fish
Press & Barbara Tetenbaum at Triangle Press, 2001

"Ode to a Grand Staricase is the product of a long-distance duet performed by book artists Barbara Tetenbaum and Julie Chen. The text of composer Eric Satie’s March of the Grand Staircase accompanies vibrant and playful letterpress graphics on each page. When opened for display, the french door format reveals myriad layers of pages and shaped windows creating a stunning three-dimensional sculptural space. Produced in an edition of 100 copies and enclosed in a modified drop spine box with magnetic closure. The box also houses the title page and whimsical notes on the life and work of Eric Satie. 5.75" by 7.75" when closed. ”

This extraordinarily witty tribute to Eric Satie plays with all four hands and the two voices of its creators. Inside the back of the case, there is information about the composer, including Jean Cocteau’s observation that “the smallest piece by Satie was like a keyhole; it seems small until you put your eye up to it,” and so it is with this book.

The intertwined metaphors here are of construction as well as of music and a staircase. Many of the leaves have notations such as “fold here” or “do not inflate,” asides from Satie’s text, which stands out in italics printed on pasted-in labels. The graphic patterns on the pages recall popular patterns of Satie’s era, geometric prints and orderly squiggles combined with graph paper, dotted lines and diagrammatic doodles that point everywhere and nowhere for the interpretive builder. The color palette emphasizes the harmonics of natural earth tones in shapes that are, however, strictly delineated. Chen and Tetenbaum are playing Satie’s score on a whole new instrument: the artists’ book.

- Judith Klau

  • • Letterpress printed, hand bound
  • • One of 100