Sensory Experience of Perception

Paris/worn out shoes

I travelled to Paris in 1984, on my first trip to Europe, to present a paper at an international symposium on urbanism.

My plane landed at dawn. After clearing customs, I took a train of the RER, the light railway system for Paris, to the neighborhood where I would be staying. 

I asked several individuals where rue Joseph Barra was located. Nobody knew, but they taught me to pronounce the street name correctly. 

The children of the family with whom I was staying found me, and guided me to their apartment. After a brief visit I washed my face and I went out to look at Paris. I walked to the Seine. Tears ran down my cheeks as I stood there with images of the Montgolfier brothers’ balloon drifting across the October morning sky.

During the week of the conference, I spent most of my free time wearing holes in the soles of my shoes as I walked around the Left Bank neighborhood of my hosts.

During the months of April and May of 2023, I read Peter Selz’s

German Expressionist Painters.

I graduated from university believing Paris to be the center of it all.

I did not, however, have a clue about the half century or so when the European art world included almost everyone.

In my first year at Berkeley I started to read Peter Selz’s German Expressionist Painters in the fall of 1963. I stopped reading it after the second chapter. I regret that I did not finish the book then.  I, of course, knew about the Russian artists, especially between the end of the Bolshevik revolution and the 1921 imposition of party control of the arts. I also knew about the German Expressionists, and their suppression by the Nazis. 

Selz described the relationship between  Western Europe and German-speaking Miteuropa  between the latter part of the 19th century and the 1934 suppression of German Expressionists by the Nazis, as one of many interactions between artists from most of Europe – from Moscow to London, and from Norway to Italy – and numerous international exhibits showing the work of artists from both realms. 





Art is Really Important

Gurdon Miller background image off

Eric Satie 

 In the spring of 1964, I first listened to Aldo Ciccolini’s recording of the piano music of Eric Satie. I was transfixed. It was a profoundly moving sensory experience.

At an early age, I was aware of Ravel, Debussy, Honegger, and other Impressionist composers. I found their music engaging, and not as stuffy and predictable as the classical music I’d listened to throughout my childhood. I think I was, in a sense, primed for Satie’s music by Debussy’s “Syrinx,” which was, for a while, the theme music for the 1950’s era Sunday afternoon culturally enriching television program, Omnibus.   

Satie’s music is not burdened by the sweetness characteristic of much of the music of the other composers who were  his contemporaries. It reminded me of the West Coast jazz I was also listening to at the time. Satie’s music, especially as played by Ciccolini, was Modern.

 I am still moved by Satie’s music more than half a century after I first heard it. The musician’s residence is one of the places I like to stroll past when I visit Paris.  

 With, of course, many exceptions, much of the classical repertoire which I have listened to since childhood seems tired and is not as engaging as I formerly found it.


Eric Satie's residence


Odette is a few steps from Shakespeare and Company. The shop sells only round baseball sized creme puffs. I try to limit my consumption to no more than two per day.

77 Rue Galande, 75005 Paris


Caspar Institute logo updated: 18 May 2018 (m)
content copyright ©2018-2021 by Gurdon Miller
design copyright ©2018-2021 by the Caspar Institute

Let Gurdon know
what you think
about this site