Satie's Vexations

Join us to perform Erik Satie's infamous Vexations!

The eccentric French composer Erik Satie composed an enigmatic half-page of music he called Vexations, to be repeated 840 times.

It is normally assumed to be a piano piece, but nowhere did Satie specify a musical instrument.

So we are inviting musicians of all instruments to join in, along with pianists, to play as many overlapping and simultaneous performances as possible so we can reach the 840 repetitions in the time we have at Extended Play Festival of New Music.

If you don’t play an instrument, or find Vexations too tricky to play, you can still participate by pedaling your way through one or more repetitions on the exercise bike we have hooked up to a recording of the piece!

You have to be an Extended Play ticket holder to participate.

SPECIAL BONUS: anyone who signs up to play for 30 minutes or more will get free entry into Extended Play for the whole twelve hours! Simply email info@cityrecitalhall.com to be allocated a time. The deadline to email requesting a 30-minute slot is 10am, Friday 24 August. But anyone can still get involved spontaneously on the day!

Where will this happen?

The ground floor foyer of City Recital Hall will be set up with two digital pianos. You can use them, or you can bring your own (non-keyboard) instrument.

What instruments can I play Vexations on?

We welcome any and all instruments! Clarinet, violin, kazoo, harmonica, electric guitar, harp  – anything at all. Or even sing it if you can! 

How many repetitions do I have to do?

As many or as few as you want. We recommend playing for at least 15 minutes. Remember that Satie was into meditation of a kind (he called it immobilisation), and to get close to this state, you probably should play for at least 15 minutes.

How will we keep track of the number of repetitions played?

We will have a big book where you write down how many you played, right after you finish! Sign your name. We will do a running tally throughout the day. We will publish the book online later.

Where do I get the sheet music?

You can download the keyboard version from here.

Alternatively, you can download scores for different instruments:

Instruments in A
Instruments in B-flat
Instruments in C
Instruments in E-flat
Instruments in F
Instruments in G 

If you already have your own sheet music for this piece, you can use that. The music we are using has been re-typeset with the pitch-spelling simplified by Lyle Chan (rather than use Satie's very idiosyncratic spelling), but it is the same music.

Do I have to play exactly what's written?

No. In fact, we welcome variations and improvisations on Vexations, to keep things interesting. The original music is made up of 3 'voices' or lines, one on top of another. If you're not playing a polyphonic instrument like a piano, you can play any of the voices, or all of them in succession, and repeat whatever you like.

How do I sign up?

Just show up!

What does Vexations actually sound like?

Here's a recording of Lyle Chan (co-producer of Extended Play) playing three repetitions of Vexations - we need your help to reach the full 840!

BACKGROUND

Vexations is one of the most notorious pieces in the entire history of music. And possibly the longest. The eccentric Erik Satie composed an enigmatic half-page to be repeated 840 times, lasting anything from 12 to 24 hours. It is normally assumed to be a piano piece, but Extended Play is capitalising and innovating on the fact that nowhere did Satie specify a musical instrument. So we are inviting musicians of all instruments to join in, along with pianists, to play as many overlapping and simultaneous performances as possible so we can reach the 840 repetitions in the 10 hours we have allocated. Satie invented the idea of musique d'ameublement – he wanted music to be part of the furniture. As audiences sit and lounge around the entry foyer to listen, this could literally happen.