Erik Satie, arr. Simon Lewandowski
Wednesday 31 May 2017
The Calder, Hepworth Wakefield
Vexations was written by Erik Satie in 1893 – it is still as challenging a piece of work as anything to come out of the contemporary avant-garde. It consists of a short theme with the instruction to play this on the piano a total of 840 times. When John Cage and a team of helpers played Vexations in 1963 it took 18 hours and 40 minutes.
This time the work was “performed” by a record-player programmed to play forwards and reverse at controlled but unpredictable intervals that will add up to the 840 repeats the composer requires in the score. The one-off vinyl recording has eight versions of the theme played on the piano by James Telford; four of them have been recorded in reverse so that they can be heard continuously as the needle goes backwards and forwards.
The record-player played in the Calder gallery as a sculptural installation, open to the public, for 24 hours with an audience invited to attend the final section to “witness” the point at which the piece stops, accompanied by a scratch ensemble of keyboards and other instruments gradually joining in for the last hour.
The piece was open to the public from 10:30 Wednesday 31 March with a culminating performance starting at 7:30pm featuring contributions by Dr Scott McLaughlin, Dr Sam Belinfante and students Alex De Little, Susanna McAlpine & Georgia Taylor and Neil Luck.
The project was realized with financial support from the Centre for Practice-led Research in the Arts.