October 9, 2009

In May 2007 the Tate Modern recreated the first performance of Satie’s Vexations, organised by John  Cage in 1963. It involved a team of pianists playing in relay each playing 15 of the 840 repetitions – subsequent performances have been for one player, or two players like the performance by Gavin Bryars and Chris Hobbs in Leicester 1971. There were always three people at the piano: one to the left (who had just played), one in the middle (who played) and the one to the right would move to the centre at the end of each stint. The transitions were seamless. Joshua Rifkin, who played in the original Cage version coordinated the performance which, as in 1963, lasted 18 hours and 40 minutes. Andy Warhol had been present in the audience in 1963 and Warhol’s film ‘Sleep’ was looped and projected above the 10 pianists who took it in turn to play 15 repetitions each, as in the original performance. This clip shows Gavin Bryars’ stint. The performance brought back Joshua Rifkin, who was one of the original performers in 1963 and who played the first 15 repetitions. The subject of Warhol’s film, the poet John Giorno, who was for a time Warhol’s partner, opened the evening with a reading of three of his poems. The pianists then started at 20:00 on 27th May 2007 and finished at 14:40 on 28th May. AS luck would have it Gavin Bryars played the final repetition and the silence in the Turbine Hall, with by then a very large audience, was extraordinary…

Gavin’s Notes:

Gavin Bryars