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Vexations, over and over, yet again

There’s been another artful repetition of the artfully repetitious musical art piece called “Vexations,” composed by Eric Satie—although this time, unlike a performance years ago by a different pianist, no scientists were recording electromagnetic signals from the pianist’s brain. (Thanks to Deb Kreuze for bringing it to our attention.)

This new performance gets a loving appreciation by Joshua Barone, in The New York Times:

‘I Just Let Myself Go’: Igor Levit on Surviving a Satie Marathon
The pianist livestreamed “Vexations,” a solo of four lines repeated 840 times, to evoke the crisis facing artists during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pianist Igor Levit is always one-upping himself. His recordings have swollen from a collection of four Beethoven sonatas to the entire cycle; his performances, from a traditional recital to, as of Sunday, a livestream lasting over 15 hours.

In an extraordinary act of musical self-flagellation, Mr. Levit played Erik Satie’s “Vexations” — a mysterious and absurd work consisting only of four lines repeated 840 times — to evoke and draw attention to the difficulties facing artists during the coronavirus pandemic….

Here’s video of about twelve hours of that performance by Igor Levit:


An Earlier, Meticulously Monitored Performance

Some years ago, we wrote about a scientific examination of another pianist who took on the task of enduring that piece of music:

Is playing the piano for 28 hours harmful?
28 hours at the piano is enough to vex anyone – but not these researchers

German and Austrian researchers analysed what happened to pianist Armin Fuchs when he spent more than a full day playing over and over again, nonstop, an oddly-named piece of music by a French composer. They also analysed what happened to the music. This was a tour de force of artistic and neurological repetition.

The research team – Christine Kohlmetz, Reinhard Kopiez and Marc Bangert of the Hanover University of Music and Drama, and Werner Goebl and Eckart Altenmuller of the Austrian Research Institute for Artificial Intelligence, in Vienna – published a pair of monographs in 2003 describing what they measured in the pianist….

Here’s video of a just a few minutes of that experimental monitoring of Armin Fuchs:


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