Les Six is a name given by critic Henri Collet to a group of six composers working in Montparnasse in the 1920s whose music was primarily a reaction against Wagnerism and Impressionism.
In 1917, when many theatres and concert halls were closed because of the war, Blaise Cendrars and the painter Moise Kisling decided to put on a concert at 6 Rue Huyghens, the studio of the painter Emile Lejeune. For this event, the walls of the studio were decorated with canvases by Picasso, Matisse, Leger, Modigliani and others. Music by Satie, Honegger, Auric and Durey was played. It was this concert that gave Erik Satie the idea of assembling a group of composers around himself to be known as the "Nouveaux Jeunes", forerunners of Les Six.
Following the ideas of Erik Satie and Jean Cocteau, the group wrote music together, including a ballet. The artists of "Les Six" collectively championed the avant-garde and surrealism in music and the arts. Although they wrote some music together, each one maintained their individual style.
The members of "Les Six" were:
Georges Auric - (1899-1983)
Louis Durey - (1888-1979)
Arthur Honegger - (1892-1955)
Darius Milhaud - (1892-1974)
Francis Poulenc - (1899-1963)
Germaine Tailleferre - (1892-1983) (the one and only female in the group)
After the First World War, Jean Cocteau and Les Six began to frequent Le Boeuf sur le Toit. The bar was named after a work by Darius Mihaud and on its opening night the pianist Jean Wiéner played tunes by George Gershwin and Vincent Youmans while Cocteau and Milhaud played percussion. Amongst those in attendance were the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev, Pablo Picasso, the film-maker René Clair, the singer Jane Bathori and Maurice Chevalier.