Depending on your point of view, Vexations is either one of the most important or one of the most bizarre works in the history of music.
This a rare chance to find out for yourself at National Museum Cardiff on 20 June from 7am with a full-length performance of the short keyboard work, written c. 1893 by the French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925).
Stay for the full 840 repetitions - approximately 18 hours - or simply drift in and out of the performance.
Taking place during Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales’s year of Music, Vexations is described as a conceptual work of art that has established itself as one of the most influential compositions of the 20th century.
It has inspired experimental and minimalist composers such as John Cage and La Monte Young to use non-developmental forms, and anticipates genres of today known as ambient and ‘chill out’ music.
Vexations is a compellingly strange and elusive piece, with a repetitive nature known to evoke a variety of states in performers from intense boredom to extreme concentration, reflection and hallucination.
Satie notes that the player should prepare in advance in silence, with ‘serious immobilities’.
The performance at National Museum Cardiff is inspired by two events: the anniversary of the first performance of Vexations in Wales (and one of the earliest documented performances of the piece anywhere) in Bangor in 1969, and John Cale’s appointment to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale from June 2009 (www.walesvenicebiennale.com).
Founder-member of The Velvet Underground, Cale was one of twelve musicians who took part in the first public performance of Vexations at the Pocket Theatre in New York City in September 1963.
Organised by the composer John Cage, an early champion of Satie’s music and ideas, that performance has become almost as legendary as Vexations itself.
The Bangor performance of February 1969 took place in the window of Cranes Music Shop. A group of ten students, with their professor Reginald Smith Brindle completed it in 21 hours.
Now, 40 years after they first sat down to play, six of the original ten will be participating in the National Museum Cardiff performance.
Mike Tooby and Bryony Dawkes wil discuss Erik Satie, Vexations and its influences at 1.05pm and 7.05pm.