As I continue to formulate and organize ideas for what will become a paper on this topic of listening to “Vexations,” I find myself rather obligated to not leave this blog hanging. So, first of all, here is the final entry in my listening journal, taken after the music was finally turned off.
1:16-2:00AM- I must decompress. I can’t even sleep yet. The silence, as expected, is quite intense. The piece really did become my environment for the day. My ears are relaxing at the moment. My hope is that I don’t dream about it, though I feel I likely will.
The good news: I didn’t. My dreams were happy, as I recall…
Second, here is a preview of just some of the things I’ll be exploring in the final writeup.
Modes of Listening
- Form, tonal grounding (not the focus of this project)
- Pure sonic characteristics
- Striving for variety- Environment, Medium, Perception
- Listening for utility, just to be done with it
- Dissonance within the musical material (not the focus of this paper)
- Noise within the music/recording
- Outside noise against the music
- Outside noise with the music
- Music as silence
- Music as noise (frustration)
- Silence as noise
Frustration in Music
- Initial expectations within music
- Via perception
- From inevitability
- As form
- As perceived/transformed/lost
- As directionality
If this means nothing to you, don’t worry about it. If it does, and it’s still very vague, then you may be interested to read the final paper. I’ll post it once it’s complete.
Thanks again, everyone! It’s been fun!
Number of Cycles: 840
Time of Listening: 18:15
Appearances of Bass Theme: 3361 (1681 on its own, 1680 with chords)
Good night, everyone. I’ll write my final thoughts after I get some sleep.
12:27AM- Something I would have done differently: Find a recording that doesn’t decrescendo. Something I’m thankful for: The version I’m listening to is over in 18 ½ hours, not 25-28.
12:34AM- I will find anything in my own music resembling this rhythm and destroy it with a prejudice.
12:49AM- Current goal- hold on for another half hour.
1:03AM- In these final ten iterations of this blasted motif, I feel every note. My fingers sense the touch of the keyboard. Every hammer stroke is amplified tenfold. I recall all the different modes of listening from the day- the quiet, the high G, the tonal bass theme, the decrescendo, the rapid opening. My ears hear, but I also feel the music course through my body. The anticipation of the end is almost frightful. My language apparently becomes extravagant when I really want something to happen.
11:09PM- The cat is no longer silent. In fact, he’s quite vocal now. I can’t say I blame him. Satie, you are a genius. And I hate you.
11:16PM- I’m coming up on 750 cycles. I’m actually starting to get excited about whatever happens after I turn the music off. Whatever I experience, I expect there to be plenty to talk about. Also, sleep. I’m looking forward to sleep.
11:44PM- Stephen Whittington writes of “Vexations,” “Important to the concept of Vexations is the relationship between the repetitive form of the piece and the forgettable nature of its material. Vexations lingers in the memory as a vague impression, the details effaced as soon as heard: it is difficult to imagine anyone walking home whistling the ‘tune’ after a performance.” Strangely enough, I’m inclined to completely agree with this assessment. Though I’ve felt rather confident in my familiarity with the material at a few points, more often I’ve found myself frustrated with how unattainable the notes still seem, even after almost 17 hours of repetition. This speaks to Satie’s skill, certainly, but it also speaks to the power of boredom and the mind. More on that when I’m not feeling like punching a wall.
December 2, 12:01AM- That louder entrance at the beginning of the loop is mocking me. Also, happy Friday, everyone. One hour, twenty minutes to go.
9:40PM- Ok, there has to be more to say about this experience than “I’m bored.” Then again, boredom is something for which Satie was aiming in more than a few pieces. Each chord is now simply there- no shape, no interest. If I force myself to engage with the piece, I just find myself annoyed with how static it seems now, especially rhythmically. This is not to say I’m annoyed with the experience. On the contrary, I lasted a lot longer than I thought I would with a genuinely interested attitude.
9:46PM- My ears are starting to become fatigued. My hand wants to move the mouse to the pause button far more often now. I think I’ll move around the apartment to give my ears just a bit of variety.
9:52PM- For the first time, after nearly 15 hours of listening, the beginning of the loop actually made me jump. I think wherever I was standing made the note particularly resonant.
10:22PM- I’m glad I took on this project. I really am. I’ll also be glad when the piece is over.
11:00PM- There’s an account of a man, Peter Evans, who tried to perform “Vexations” in its entirety by himself. (I can’t imagine how he kept count) The account is that Evans, after completing 595 repetitions, about 16 hours in, abruptly stopped and left the stage. He later wrote, “I would not play the piece again. I felt each repetition slowly wearing my mind away. I had to stop. …People who play it do so at their own great peril.” He said that his mind became filled with “evil thoughts, [and] animals and ‘things’ started peering out of the score at him.” Fun times, huh? I’ll let you all know if I start seeing any strange animals.
8:03PM- Another zone-out. I am finding it increasingly difficult to focus on the music.
8:44PM- Without thinking, I almost pressed the pause button on my computer, thinking, “Wow, this music is getting annoying.” I guess we’re at that point.
9:05PM- Coffee. 4 hours to go. I have a feeling posts are going to become much more terse from this point forward.
5:58PM- The piece is once again taking on a more familiar tone, somewhat like a friend who’s returned after a long trip. The first and last notes of the bass theme continue to assert their dominance over the rest of the piece. It is these two notes, if any, that continue to bring the music back to the foreground of my attention.
6:34PM- Not much new with the music- just the same fluctuating in and out of conscious listening. My apartment is getting nice and clean, though.
7:00PM- I’ve been listening now for 12 hours, a little over 550 cycles. I think the piece has finally become a “sound world.” I’m used to its presence. I am more interested now in what will happen once the piece is over. What will I hear? Will I feel relief, or frustration? I guess we’ll wait another six or seven hours to find out.