Earlier this month, within the foyer of the Paulson Heart, NYU school and native pianists collaborated to carry out French composer Erik Satie’s famed “Vexations” — and so they carried out it 840 instances.
Organized by Joan Forsyth and William Anderson, the spectacle was part of the Village Journey Competition, an ongoing celebration of the humanities and activism in Decrease Manhattan. The efficiency marked the 60-year anniversary of its unique 1963 manufacturing by John Cage, a outstanding American composer and music theorist, on the Pocket Theatre.
“We have been thrilled when Joan and Invoice proposed commemorating the premiere of ‘Vexations’ with a efficiency at NYU,” mentioned fellow performer and Steinhardt Director of Piano Efficiency Manuel Laufer.
With Paulson’s foyer being totally open to the general public, Laufe mentioned they discovered the composition to be “an exquisite alternative to convey collectively college students, school, alumni and visitor artists to current a really uncommon, thought-provoking piece.”
Written within the Eighteen Nineties, an inscription on the piece reads, “In an effort to play the motif 840 instances in succession, it will be advisable to arrange oneself beforehand, and within the deepest silence, by severe immobilities.” Satie, recognized for his avant-garde musical aesthetic, had a significant affect on artwork actions of the Sixties — particularly in Greenwich Village.
Marilyn Nonken, Steinhardt chair of the Division of Music and Performing Arts Professions, mentioned that the piece “stands as a mannequin for lots of experimentation” and is “type of a historic piece for being so extremely unusual.” Many query if Satie meant for “Vexations” to even be carried out.
“He was irreverent and quirky, and liked jokes and pranks,” Laufer mentioned, who stayed for all 14 hours and half-hour of the efficiency. “Satie may need been very amused by the thought that, roughly 130 years after this music was written, we might be placing this a lot vitality into repeating this piece precisely 840 instances. Or maybe, he would have adored the thought.”
Nonken kicked off the piece at 6 a.m., starting the primary of her 35 performances earlier than the following pianist took over. Talking of her expertise, she mentioned that whereas many performers discover the repetition irritating, she discovered it fairly a reflective and peaceable expertise.
“I used to be unhappy when it was over,” she mentioned.
Upon first listening to of this feat, the thought of repeating a piece such a ridiculous quantity of instances sounds mind-numbingly uninteresting. Nonetheless, Laufer expressed an analogous sentiment to Nonken.
“The music turns into one thing of a sonic background, and what begins to know your consideration is the individuality of every performer,” he mentioned. “It was truly fairly thrilling when individuals misplaced focus or made errors, and reminded you of the humanity of all of it.”
They confirmed that even in repetition, there’s room for variation and playfulness. Whether or not intentional or not, the piece advanced as time went on.
“In the long run, the entire endeavor highlights the truth that regardless of how laborious you strive, repeating issues the very same means just isn’t actually doable,” he mentioned.
All through the day, an viewers shaped from passersby stumbling upon the piece in progress, with individuals submitting out and in of the reverberant Paulson foyer. Some sat all the way down to learn, some labored and others simply took a relaxation.
“These have been the attractive moments that gave the efficiency variation,” Nonken mentioned. “When a crowd of individuals comes by and listens, or a toddler runs as much as the piano or when there’s a change from one pianist to the following, these are the dramatic moments. The piece offers the atmosphere for the drama.”
Contact Zoe Singh at [email protected].