Saturday, April 23, 2016

Erik Satie "Vexation" Musical Piece and John Cage

"To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.". Erik Satie - 1893

One composition that proves to be a genius and yet perplexed one was Satie's work entitled "Vexations". It  is a short musical piece with only 3 lines to be played  840times in successions. The piece was became popular and published until only after his death .  It was written by Satie same time of his intense affair with the painter and model Suzanne Valadon, from January to June 1893.

John Cage discovered the score through Satie’s friend  in 1949 and have it printed immediately.  In September 9, 1963 (the performance lasted 18 hours and 40 minutes from 6:00p.m of September 9 to 12.40 p.m the next day)  at Pocket Theatre, New York, Cage organized and gathered a team of pianists  who played  the full performance for the first time of "Vexations".  The team included himself,   David Tudor, Christian Wolff, Philip Corner, Viola Farber, Robert Wood, MacRae Cook, David Del Tredici, James Tenney, Howard Klein, Joshua Rifkin, and John Cale.  

Each pianists made an alternate performance for 15minutes with this short piece of only 3 lines repeated 840 times, the performance lasted for 18hours .  After that performance, many pianists have tried   to play the challenging piece  and been the subject of musicologists and Satie researchers. 

As for John Cage music, Satie  had been probably an influence of his later works.  His interest to the older composer begun since 1945 when he composed two-piano arrangement  of the first movement of Satie’s "Socrate" for Merce Cunningham’s ballet, he  later organized a concert with Satie’s music, his writings, and some other projects  related to Satie.

References :

Serious Immobilities: On the centenary of Erik Satie’s Vexations, StephenWhittington,  1999
Nicolas Fogwall Research Erik Satie Site