you will be writing about Erik Satie’s Vexations (composed c. 1893), a rarely p

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you will be writing about Erik Satie’s Vexations (composed c. 1893), a rarely
performed piece that intrigues listeners to this day. As you will discover, it has never been clear that
Satie intended the work to actually be performed. Perhaps it was only a conceptual exercise. Perhaps
it was only meant for himself. Perhaps — especially considering the composer’s sardonic, ironic sense
of humor — it was just a joke. If that’s the case, he might be laughing in his grave when brave souls sit
down for the better part of a day to make it happen.
But performances can be fruitful. The work raises questions we couldn’t otherwise consider. And how
can we know what any experience will truly be like until we’re inside it? How can we know the effects
— be they emotional, physical, even spiritual — of protracted repetition or extreme time-spans? Does
the mind focus, or wander, or empty out in a meditative kind of way? Do we learn anything about
music, or endurance, or time perception, or ourselves as individuals?
Your two main sources: (1) a blog piece authored by Nat Trotman, art historian and curator at the
Guggenheim Museum, and (2) a behind-the-scenes video of the performance itself. I’ve added other
materials that provide further insights.
Don’t spend too much time summarizing the piece’s history or process; assume that the reader has a
general knowledge. Focus more on your response. Let loose your imagination.
You must consult the following two sources:
1. Nat Trotman: blog post on Satie’s Vexations —

Presenting Erik Satie’s 18-Hour Piece Vexations at the Guggenheim


2. Video: performing Vexations at the Guggenheim Museum (also included within the blog, above); full-screen recommended! —

Erik Satie’s Vexations and the Salon de la Rose+Croix

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