Friday, June 12, 2009

Vexations at the National Museum of Wales

The National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, is to stage a rare full-length performance of Erik Satie's Vexations. Pseuds, like myself, are already creaming themselves at the prospect. Vexations, in case you are unfamiliar with the work, is a short keyboard piece which is repeated 840 times. The performance lasts about 18 hours.

The composition, famously, had its first public airing at the Pocket Theatre, New York, in 1963. This now-legendary gig featured a pre-Velvet Underground John Cale as one of its 12 participating pianists. The event itself was organised by avant-garde muso (and big Satie fan) John Cage.

Amazingly, in 1969, Vexations was performed in north Wales, at Bangor. This rather strange show took place in the shop window of Crane's Music store in the town. It was completed in 21 hours by 10 music students under the guidance of Professor Reginald Brindle Smith. Such a notable cultural event ought to be etched into the Welsh national consciousness but, true to form, it is all but forgotten.

Cardiff's Vexations will help to rectify this by celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Bangor gig. It will also celebrate John Cale's appointment to represent Wales at the Venice Biennale. Those brave souls who wish to witness the entire 18 hour marathon need to get up at the crack of dawn and perhaps snort some amphetamine beforehand. It will begin at 7am and it's scheduled to end at midnight. The rest of us can leisurely dip in and out of the performance throughout the day and attend one of the free lectures. I'll see you there.

*Satie's Vexations will be performed at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, on Saturday, 20th June (7am - midnight). Entry is free.