Erik Satie - Vexations

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I am listening to a recording of Vexations while browsing ILx. This is the piece where Satie has a pianist play a string of harmonically unrelated chords and then repeat them for roughly 24 h, I believe. This recording is not longer than 90 minutes. I am interested in how my perception of this piece (in the background while I'm browsing) changes as it repeats again and again. I will comment at intervals. Right now I am about 13:30 in. I have reached a point where the piano chords, which initially made little impression, are making their presence felt. I am starting to recognize the sequence and anticipate certain chords at certain times. There is a single-note part too. (I just held down the shift key for over 8s without realizing. I know because a pop-up window told me.) This melody just seemed heart-rending. The whole thing seemed melancholy but now just felt like a string of geometric shapes in primary colours. I am anticipating the chords and notes more and more. They seem more and more right. I am 17:05 in.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 20:57 (12 years ago) Permalink

18:05 I have less desire to browse. I just want to listen to this for a while.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 20:58 (12 years ago) Permalink

20:36 I am beginning to feel like I am slowly spinning on a merry-go-round. It disturbs me that the red blotches on my screen indicating transfer to CD do not appear immediately when the chords sound.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:02 (12 years ago) Permalink

24:20 I felt fatigued/bored for the first time. As distinguished from not paying attention.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:05 (12 years ago) Permalink

27:26 I paid no attention to the piece at all while I read the thread about big songs. I wonder how long I can keep this at the top of the "New Answers" page.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:08 (12 years ago) Permalink

29:40 I drifted back in. It felt precisely like that - drifting. These chords just feel enveloping now. . . Aack I didn't realize Cool Edit would stop recording at 30:00. Will I have to do this all over?

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:11 (12 years ago) Permalink

It's been interrupted so the experiment is not pure. If nothing else, this should help me at least register on the stats page.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:14 (12 years ago) Permalink

45:11 By this point the sequence feels sort of like one's pulse or breathing pattern.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:36 (12 years ago) Permalink

61:11 I felt my first twinge of a wish for the piece to end. Possibly because I am hungry.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:51 (12 years ago) Permalink

A lot of these comments seem negative. But they're not totally really. It's hard to explain and I feel too brain-fried to do so right now.

66:45 Wee hee I am going craaaazy. Ping pong ping pong ping pong. Doo doo dee dee dee dee.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 21:57 (12 years ago) Permalink

70:11 There was a loud metallic audience sound on the recording. It was very startling and felt threatening.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:01 (12 years ago) Permalink

75:45 That crazy thing was just a phase. The music and I are closer than ever. There's something very relieving about how I feel now. All the thoughts that normally preoccupy me are not present. I'm just concerned with following the piano go through its sequence at its relatively relaxed pace. It's calming.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:07 (12 years ago) Permalink

77:48 There was a little pause before he started playing again and I felt afraid that the piece was going to end. I didn't want it to.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:08 (12 years ago) Permalink

haven't heard the piece in question,but this is a quality (if slightly one sided) thread...

robin (robin), Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:14 (12 years ago) Permalink

85:11 The recording will end soon. I know it will because these tapes can't hold more than 90 mins. This dismays me. I am starting to see those kinds of dots and streaks of light that you see when you push your eyelids in with your thumbs.

86:30 The tape ended. I feel like I am literally floating. Airborne or like a foetus in whatever kind of fluid your mother has inside her. Like I was being . . . being . . . what's the word? . . . latched? to something by the repetition of the sequence. It is disorienting.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:18 (12 years ago) Permalink

I was feeling cold earlier but now I feel like blood is rushing to my extremities more than usual. I am going to eat now. I have no desire to go home.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:20 (12 years ago) Permalink

Thank you Robin.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:20 (12 years ago) Permalink

sundar where did you get a copy of this? (i assume i could find it on soulseek if i looked hard enough but i dont really have 2 days to download a 90 minute+ piece.)

jess (dubplatestyle), Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:21 (12 years ago) Permalink

When I pulled the tape out of the machine, I found it had actually just been eaten by the machine. The piece wasn't over! While putting on my coat I started to get "Dazed and Confused" in my head.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:27 (12 years ago) Permalink

The recording I'm listening to is actually a tape of a concert from the Music Gallery from the 70s in the archives of the library here. This particular recording is not publicly available. There probably are recordings available but I don't know them.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:28 (12 years ago) Permalink

90:45 It feels goofily upbeat now, like a toy music box.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:30 (12 years ago) Permalink

Sorry that should have been 89:45.

90:32 It stopped in the middle of a chord. I leaned forward a bit in anticipation, startled. Now I just feel calmed. I really will eat now.

sundar subramanian, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:32 (12 years ago) Permalink

I just got an LP of this a while ago (performed by Reinbert de Leeuw on Philips). As far as I know, this is the only commercially availible recording. I think it's beautiful, I could just listen to it for hours (although I haven't yet). I'd interested to see it performed.

James Annett, Wednesday, 23 October 2002 22:48 (12 years ago) Permalink

i want to see more music reviews that read like trip reports.

geeta (geeta), Wednesday, 23 October 2002 23:16 (12 years ago) Permalink

yeah i like this review A LOT. the interweb ROOLZ!

Julio Desouza (jdesouza), Thursday, 24 October 2002 08:15 (12 years ago) Permalink

The story of Vexations:

Vexations composed im 1893, at first seems to be a very short one page composition. It only contains 180 notes, but when one looks at the instructions Satie requests that this simple tune be played 840 times non-stop.

http://www.af.lu.se/~fogwall/jpg/vexmanu+.jpg

A link to the original vexations written by Satie himself.

It normally takes around 12 to 24 hours to perform live, and is often completed by a large team of pianists.

I believe it was first perfomed in 1963 in New York, it took ten pianists 18 hours to complete.

I remember hearing a story about how Andy Warhol went to one of these Marathon concerts, and talking about how impressed he was.

I recommend everyone to download the basic piece, which happens to be only around 54 seconds long, than play it on repeat 840 times, and than you have Vexations, without having to have a very large disc to play it on ;)

Geoffrey Balasoglou, Saturday, 26 October 2002 22:02 (12 years ago) Permalink

Alas my response is destined to never be read.

Geoff, Wednesday, 30 October 2002 09:10 (12 years ago) Permalink

I recommend everyone to download the basic piece, which happens to be only around 54 seconds long, than play it on repeat 840 times, and than you have Vexations

but do you? aren't the tiny differences between each repetition an essential part of the piece? (I don't know, I'm just asking. what do you think, sundar?)

(I seem to recall I was offered the chance to take part in a performance of this piece in my university days. Why did I decline? I'd jump at it like a shot now!)

Jeff W, Wednesday, 30 October 2002 10:01 (12 years ago) Permalink

Yeah, I think they probably are.

sundar subramanian (sundar), Thursday, 31 October 2002 02:09 (12 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...
super

I wonder if it's the same recording Marks released on London in the 80's or if it's a new one

I like the 80's one though there's a long silence at the end, with nothing but room ambience... it sounds nice and contemplative but since it's a single track disc it makes it impossible to easily loop the disc (two tracks would have been helpful)

milton parker (Jon L), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 05:26 (9 years ago) Permalink

sundar on fire on this thread, of course

milton parker (Jon L), Tuesday, 2 August 2005 05:26 (9 years ago) Permalink

11 months pass...
favorite sundar thread

and to answer my own question; yes the Alan Marks 'Vexations' CD that came out last year is a re-release. it's good, it's so good, it's so incredibly good I envy anyone hearing it for the first time

and news:

http://ubu.com/sound/vexations.html

Pianoless Vexations (MP3): 8 hours of MP3s recorded live at The Sculpture Center, NYC on
June 11, 2006. Vexations was composed by Erik Satie in 1893 and consists of a short motif
repeated 840 times. Vexations was first performed publicly by John Cage and several other
pianists over the course of 19 hours in 1963. As the title conveys, artists performing in
Pianoless Vexations used any instrument except the piano to perform Satie's original
composition. Instruments included laptops, drums, guitar, French horn, violin, trumpet,
saxophone, viola, recorder, toy piano, harpsichord, mandolin, bass, film projectors,
voice, dulcimer and more. Artists include Randy Nordschow; Hay Sanders; Bruce Pearson and
Marco Navarette; Daphna Mor, Rachel Begley, and Nina Stern; Bruce Arnold Jazz Trio; Alan
Licht and Angela Jaeger; String Messengers; Rusty Santos; Amy Granat; Greg Kelley; Miguel
Frasconi; Bethany Ryker; D. Edward Davis and Erik Carlson; Zachary Seldess; Charles
Waters and Katie Pawluk; Andrew Lampert and Steve Dalachinsky; Margaret Leng Tan; Trudy
Chan; David Grubbs; Goddess; Matthew Ostrowski; Kenta Nagai; Stephin Merritt and Ethan
Cohen; Rick Moody, Hannah Marcus, and Tianna Kennedy.

milton parker (Jon L), Saturday, 15 July 2006 06:26 (8 years ago) Permalink

There's a biggish article about Vexations in the latest issue of International Piano... FYI

Chinchilla Volap√ľk (Captain Sleep), Saturday, 15 July 2006 06:32 (8 years ago) Permalink

Listened to the Vienna Art Orchestra's versions of 'vexations' on the 'minimalism of erik satie' disc recently and its well worth tracking down.

xyzzzz__ (jdesouza), Saturday, 15 July 2006 09:43 (8 years ago) Permalink

2 months pass...
radio 3 broadcast the entire vexations maybe 7 years ago. i think it started about 8.pm. i listened to a couple of hours of it.

jed_ (jed), Tuesday, 26 September 2006 21:16 (8 years ago) Permalink

1 year passes...

Must see.

_Rockist__Scientist_, Thursday, 13 March 2008 00:58 (6 years ago) Permalink

between that & the Cage appearence I'm definitely curious for a bio on the booking agent for "I've Got A Secret"

Erik Satie's Performance Indications

Milton Parker, Thursday, 13 March 2008 01:04 (6 years ago) Permalink

having raided ross' bandwidth I should politely link to source

the two things that kill me about that john cale clip: the fact that one of the contestants actually gets the answer, and the little scuttle of laughter on the second sub-iteration of the piece where it actually dawns on the entire room at once what it might sound like to hear it 840 times

Milton Parker, Thursday, 13 March 2008 01:24 (6 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...

WTF: did this really happen?

http://www.classicstoday.com/review.asp?ReviewNum=4487

Webern conducts Berg (Call the Cops), Tuesday, 1 June 2010 10:03 (4 years ago) Permalink

That was one of CT's annual April Fool's reviews. Usually pretty funny if a bit recondite.

I have the old Alan Marks CD but no idea where it is at the moment...

Also find Satie's performance instruction quite ambiguous; IMO one traversal of the score is just as legit a way to perform this piece.

99 anna hay-uff jussa woan' do (Jon Lewis), Tuesday, 1 June 2010 16:39 (4 years ago) Permalink

A key element of this composition is the effect it has on the performer. Sure, there's something for listeners too but from what I've read it's the pianist who is most affected by a performance. There are some testimonials out there where the performers document the experience. And you really have to follow his instructions in order to get that - playing as slowly as possible, not playing from memory and doing 840 repetitions.

everything, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 18:07 (4 years ago) Permalink

Yes but his instructions, iirc, say 'If this piece is to be performed 840 times in succession, then [etc etc etc].' First word, if. And Satie liked deadpan joeks.

it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a crane shot to 'NOOOOOO' (Jon Lewis), Tuesday, 1 June 2010 18:21 (4 years ago) Permalink

Ah. I have never realized that the wording was open to such intepretation but now I see that it's actually not an instruction about performing it but an instruction about preparing yourself if you're going to play it 840 times. This makes me wonder how the 840 repetition thing became the accepted interpretation.

If you play piano I recommend trying this piece for fun. I find it quite confusing to play which is maybe something to do with the absence of a key or time signature.

everything, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 18:29 (4 years ago) Permalink

Acutally, I now see that Satie also never specified which instrument this should be played on.

everything, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 18:30 (4 years ago) Permalink

^ That could be common practice for him; he often eschewed bar lines as well, and other 'necessities' of printed music.

it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a crane shot to 'NOOOOOO' (Jon Lewis), Tuesday, 1 June 2010 18:51 (4 years ago) Permalink

It's either a deliberate attempt to confuse the performer or else he's subverting the normal rules of musical notation for fun. On the second line he's got D#s bumping up against Ebs in a way that is not logical. There is probably some internal system which is only understandable if you are a musicologist geek.

everything, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 18:59 (4 years ago) Permalink

>It's either a deliberate attempt to confuse the performer or else he's subverting the normal rules of musical notation for fun.

Erik Satie's Performance Indications

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 19:39 (4 years ago) Permalink

Satie's Performance Indications > Eno's Oblique Strategies

Milton Parker, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 19:41 (4 years ago) Permalink

He's a funny guy all right!

everything, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 20:38 (4 years ago) Permalink

The great thing is, almost every performance indication on that page can be actually applied to one's performance on some level.

Love the little prose poems he attached to the 3 Embyrons Desechees...

it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a crane shot to 'NOOOOOO' (Jon Lewis), Tuesday, 1 June 2010 20:58 (4 years ago) Permalink

Trying to get hold of a relatively new recording of this by Stephane Ginsburgh, got a great review in Brainwashed a few months ago, but local stores (and, indeed, some classical music stores in a few cities in Europe) are letting me down.

louiiiis jjjjagger (S-), Wednesday, 2 June 2010 04:00 (4 years ago) Permalink

2 years pass...

Today is the day.

when entitlement goes unfilled (doo dah), Thursday, 21 June 2012 00:29 (2 years ago) Permalink


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