Pianoless Vexations (Erik Satie)

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Pianoless Vexations, an eight-hour performance of Erik Satie's Vexations (1893) was performed at The Sculpture Center in New York City on Sunday, June 11, 2006, 11-7pm.

Vexations was composed by Erik Satie in 1893 and consists of a short motif repeated 840 times. Satie directs on the score: "In order to play this motif 840 times consecutively to oneself, it will be useful to prepare oneself beforehand, and in utter silence, by grave immobilities." Vexations was first performed publicly by John Cage and several other pianists over the course of 19 hours in 1963. As the title conveys, artists performing in Pianoless Vexations used any instrument except the piano to perform Satie's original composition. Instruments included laptops, drums, guitar, French horn, violin, trumpet, saxophone, viola, recorder, toy piano, harpsichord, mandolin, bass, film projectors, voice, dulcimer and more. Artists will performed in continuous twenty-minute segments throughout the day.

Pianoless Vexations was conceived for "Grey Flags" exhibition at The Sculpture Center by Kenneth Goldsmith; Musical Directors and Curators Frank J. Oteri, Alan Licht, and Anthony Huberman. Michael Dotolo was the sound engineer.

1. Randy Nordschow (12'13")

Randy Nordschow, G4 laptop and two Boss DD-2 pedals

""Since I was scheduled first, I decided to concentrate on solely on the opening sonority of Vexations. I felt this strategy might reflect the inflated time-scale of the performances that followed."

BIO: Randy Nordschow's music emphasizes the energetic and experiential act of performance and its relationship to sound, often drawing upon elements and concepts associated with the visual arts rather than musical tradition. In addition to gallery exhibitions of his sound and video work, his music has been presented in museums, nightclubs, and concert halls throughout North America and Europe.

2. Jay Sanders (21'05")
Jay Sanders, Electric Guitar

3. Bruce Pearson and Marco Navarette (18'09")
Bruce Pearson, Laptop

Visual artist Bruce Pearson has shown in Europe and North America including New York institutions such as, MoMA, Brooklyn Museum, Exit Art, Apex Art, and PS1. Pianoless Vexations is the second collaboration between Pearson and sound artist Marco Navarrete, their first being a radio piece for Performa Radio 05. Bruce Pearson shows with the Ronald Feldman Gallery in New York.

4. Daphna Mor, Rachel Begley, and Nina Stern (15'53")
Recorder trio:
Daphna Mor
Rachel Bagley
Nina Stern

Playing on combination of 6 defferent sizes of recorders:
sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, F bass,and C bass.

Recorder Player Daphna Mor has been seen on stages around the world both as a western classical musician and as a 'world music' musician. Her devotion to expand the use of her instrument brings her to European and American concert halls as well as to Outdoors world music Festivals around the world.

5. Bruce Arnold Jazz Trio (21'57")

Bruce Arnold - Guitar and SuperCollider
Ratzo B. Harris - Bass
Tony Moreno - Percussion

The Los Angeles Times has written, "Bruce Arnold deserves credit for his effort to expand the potential of the jazz palette." His unique signature sound stems from his combination of jazz and classical methods, and he is one of the only guitarists currently working with SuperCollider (a computer program for live sound processing).

6. Alan Licht and Angela Jaeger (20'21")
Alan Licht, Electric Guitar
Angela Jaeger, Voice

Alan Licht is a musician and writer living in New York. His most recent projects include Text of Light, a music improvisation project with experimental cinema, a trio with Michael Snow and Aki Onda, another trio with Oren Ambarchi and Tetuzi Akiyama, the audience participation project Digger Choir, and an upcoming book on sound art, to be published by Rizzoli in 2007.

7. String Messengers (18'05")

Frank J. Oteri (a.k.a. Frank York) - fiddle & vocals
Joe Ornstein (a.k.a. "Mandola"J Joe York) - mandolin
Jeffrey Herman (a.k.a. Jeff York) - guitar
Ratzo B. Harris (a.k.a. Ratzo B. York) - bass

When I mentioned that I was getting involved in a performance of Erik Satie's Vexations to the members of The String Messengers, my motley crew of brothers with whom I play bluegrass-infused newtimey music, they were truly vexed. But ultimately there was no mountain they're afraid of climbing. Jeff York figured out a cool chord progression that worked with old Erik's plan on his guitar while Ratzo York kept the steady 13 beat cycle going on his bass. This afforded my older brother Joe York the opportunity to spin webs of sound on his mandolin and for me, Frank York, to go crazy on my fiddle. I even sang at some point. Twenty minutes never went by so fast, but I doubt we coulda made it to the full 840 repetitions. - Frank Oteri

Frank J. Oteri is a composer and the editor of NewMusicBox, the web magazine from the American Music Center ( His cooperatively led newtimey bluegrass infused string band The String Messengers, in which he plays fiddle as Frank York, also includes Mandola Joe York on mandolin, Jon York on vye-o-la, Jeff York on guitar, and Ratzo B. York on double bass.

8. Rusty Santos (16'28")

Performers: Rusty Santos, Jesse Lee
Instrumentation: RS- sounds (played from sampler) and vocals, JL- drums

RUSTY SANTOS is a person but also a 2 piece band now just returning from tour in Japan with fellow NY friends Gang Gang Dance. He runs the label UUAR on which he will release his new album "Eternity Spans" this fall and he plays in another band called TOGETHER with Panda Bear of the Animal Collective.

9. Amy Granat (17'30")

Amy Granat, violin played only one note, the first note (c), for the entire length of her performance.

10. Greg Kelly (23'44")

Greg Kelley, trumpet

Greg Kelley (b. 1973, Boston, MA) studied classical trumpet at Peabody Conservatory before following a path into the outer fringes of experimental and improvised music. He is a member of Nmperign, Heathen Shame, and Minister of Fanfares for the Kingdoms of Elgaland-Vargaland and has performed throughout the United States, Europe, Japan and Argentina in venues including churches, festival halls, basements, a vibrating floor, and a bank lobby.

11. Miguel Frasconi (19'09")

Miguel Frasconi, sampled glass sounds on a Buchla Thunder midi controller.

Miguel Frasconi is a composer, improviser and sound artist who uses glass objects, electronics, keyboards, and devolved instruments to create music that sounds from a uniquely imagined tradition. His recent collaborations include new works with choreographer Alonzo King, electronic music pioneer Morton Subotnick, and the new music ensemble Gamelan Son of Lion.

12. Bethany Ryker (19'44")

Bethany Ryker, French Horn

Bethany Ryker is a writer, musician and radio producer based in Brooklyn. On French horn, she has performed a wide range of modern classical repertoire and has worked with improvisers such as Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton and Mark Dresser. Her weekly radio program "The Stochastic Hit Parade" airs weekly on WFMU 91.1 FM /

13. D. Edward Davis and Erik Carlson (21'41")

D. Edward Davis, laptop
Erik Carlson, violin

Using Max/MSP, I created software that tracks the pitch of the violin and uses that information to pitch-shift the violin sound, creating the appropriate upper harmonies in real time. Nothing is sampled or prerecorded. -DED

14. Zachary Seldess "Vexations_6.11 (for solo laptop performer)" (21'08")

Zachary Seldess, laptop

A quasi-granular, realtime splintering of myself performing Vexations on classical guitar. Among other things, I attemptedÊto play the theme and variations as few times as possible while conserving the basic sonic character and recognizability of Satie's original work.

Zachary Seldess, a recent transplant to New York from Chicago, has worked as a performer, composer, private teacher and adjunct professor (currently teaching at Brooklyn College). As a composer, Zachary has collaborated with artists in many mediums including theater, film, painting, and poetry. These days, Zachary spends much of his time working with interactive media, particularly the Max/MSP/Jitter programming environment.

15. Charles Waters and Katie Pawluk (16'19")

Charles Waters, Saxophone
Katie Pawluk, Violin

16. Andrew Lampert with Steve Dalachinsky "Vexed" (20'40")

Instrumentation: Super 8 film, Eumig variable speed projector, screen, record player, CD player (x2), screen, color gels, book, spoon, shoes, text (Performance Indications by Satie as found in A MAMMAL'S NOTEBOOK)

17. Margaret Leng Tan (19'55")

Margaret Leng Tan, toy piano

Margaret Leng Tan, hailed by The New Yorker as "the diva of avant-garde pianism", is also the world's first professional toy pianist. The feature documentary, Sorceress of the New Piano: The Artistry of Margaret Leng Tan by Evans Chan, will have its New York premiere screenings at the Pioneer Two Boots Theater on September 23/24, 2006.

18. Trudy Chan (20'32")

Trudy Chan, harpsichord

""If pianists can play Bach on the piano, why not play Satie on the harpsichord!"

While everyone else was bringing Satie's Vexations back to the future on laptops and other 21st century accoutrements, Hong Kong-born, New York City-based keyboardist Trudy Chan decided to turn the historical tables and play the late 19th century French composer's harbinger of minimalism and atonality on a replica of late 17th century single-manual harpsichord. All of her permutations--embellishments, retrogrades, altered accidentals, buff stop, etc,--while sounding post-modern are decidedly in keeping with Baroque performance practice.

Trudy Chan is a New York-based keyboardist who performs solo and chamber music on the piano and the harpsichord. Originally from Hong Kong, where she also conducted choirs, Ms. Chan has recently performed the music of Telemann at St. Peter's Church and at Lincoln Center as part of the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards where she has played little-known works by Nicolas Slonimsky and Arthur Berger.

19. David Grubbs (16'30")

David Grubbs, Nylon-string guitar

Statement: I wanted to make the paint look as good as it did in the can.

David Grubbs is known for his solo work, as well as for collaborations with Stephen Prina, Susan Howe, Tony Conrad, Angela Bulloch, Will Oldham, and many others. He is a professor of Radio and Sound Art at Brooklyn College

20. Goddess (19'33")

Personnel/Instruments: Tamalyn Miller: horsehair fiddle, vocals
Andy Newman: lap dulcimer
Fran Pado: vocals
Lyrics by Goddess

Statement: Satie in his closet-apartment. Grey suits, white food, umbrellas. Counting past boredom. Eventual imaginings: a new religion rises out of tangled chords.

Goddess is a Brooklyn-based trio currently recording an album of stately, haunting songs about death, disease, transcendence and donkeys. Goddess is a state of mind attainable by dressing up and surrendering to the darkness.

21. Matthew Ostrowski (20'16")

Matthew Ostrowski, laptop

Born in New York City, Matthew Ostrowski is a composer, performer, and audio artist who has previously mangled the work of Stockhausen, Feldman, Bartok, and many other fine composers. He was a NYFA Fellow in Computer Arts in 2001, an Alpert Award nominee in 2005, and has received various other accolades, but is still waiting for his ticker-tape parade.

22. Kenta Nagai (19'53")

Kenta Nagai, shamisen

Kenta Nagai is a sound and visual artist based in New York City who works with acoustic and electronic sound, visual media and live performance. And he loves cats.

23. Stephin Merritt & Ethan Cohen (20'10")

Stephin Merritt, Marimba
Ethan Cohn, Marimba

Stephin Merritt releases albums under the band names the Magnetic Fields, the 6ths, the Gothic Archies, and Future Bible Heroes. He has also composed original music and lyrics for films and theater, and is soon to release an album of songs to accompany Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, entitled The Tragic Treasury: Songs from 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' by The Gothic Archies (Nonesuch, October 06).

24. Rick Moody, Tianna Kennedy & Hannah Marcus (17'28")

Rick Moody played guitar and sang.
Hannah Marcus played violin, tambourine, and sang.
Tianna Kennedy played cello and sang.

Words were composed by Rick Moody and mainly attempted to ape the spirit of the original music. Our idea was a sort of modified Old Time band playing the piece as though it were a music hall favorite from the fifties. We were occasionally successful, at least in the pizzicato sections.