Erik Satie: Vexations for piano and reversible record player

CAVE are sorry to announce that this installation and performance has been postponed due to technical reasons. We will be rescheduling the work for mid-March.

Culminating performance starts at 7.30pm.

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 will be ‘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.

We calculate our version will take around 24 hours to complete. The record-player will play in the Calder gallery as a sculptural installation, open to the public, for the first 23 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 will be open to the public from 11am to 7.00pm, with a final performance from 7:30pm to 8.30pm. The event is free and there is no need to book. Please dress warmly – The Calder is an unheated space.

This is the latest in a series of workshop performances organised by the Centre for Audio Visual Experimentation (CAVE) at the School of Fine Art, History of Art and Cultural Studies in partnership with the School of Music. The project is realised with financial support from the Centre for Practice-led Research in the Arts.

Location details

The Calder, The Hepworth Wakefield, Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW