Outdoors.

5:16PM- I’m back from my walk.  I walked/jogged about two miles near my apartment.  I’m very glad I did, as it’s quite a nice day out in Gainesville.

The surrounding sounds, especially those of cars passing, changed the sound of the piano.  High frequencies in particular were more difficult to hear, giving the effect of “muting” the piano.  The other major difference in sound arose from the change in medium.  The decrescendo at the end of the recording was far more dramatic, causing me to have to turn up the volume just to hear it at all.  I also noticed a very clear skip within the recording after the first full cycle, the decay of the final notes ending abruptly.  Perhaps this was a result of splicing performances together.

On my walk, I amused myself trying to imagine what Satie would have thought of “Vexations” being used as jogging music.

 

EDIT: I see a link to this blog has been posted to the SMT mailing list.  So, if you’re here at the suggestion of my professor Dr. Reed, many thanks and welcome!

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Halftime stretch.

3:27PM- The piece surely is vexing.  It feels even less familiar than before.  The chordal sections are almost foreign, and the bass theme less predictable than I remember it.  If I focus, I still have it in my memory, but it’s not as easy as one would imagine.  This is quite likely purely psychological, but were I sitting at a live performance, I would swear I were hearing wrong notes.

3:37PM- I am making another effort to sit down and listen to this thing.  So far it’s going well.  I’m noticing more nuances that I missed at the beginning.  This pianist pedals more than I realized on the chordal sections, which starts to obscure the bass line.

3:41PM- I am absolutely positive that the beginning of the recording is faster than the end.  It feels downright rushed when it loops back.

4:08PM- I have reached the halfway point!  420 cycles through, and a good deal of interesting information gathered.  This also means the original estimate of 20 ½ hours was off by a bit.  The new time for completion is about 18 hours, 20 minutes, getting me done around 1:20AM.

Reflections so far: Erik Satie’s “Vexations,” as far as I can tell through my own listening, can be heard similarly to any minimalist work of the 20th century, with gradually transforming perceptions and recontextualizations.  As for an attempt to reach a state of “trance-like unawareness,” only one or two distinct realizations of such, more likely linked to my own wandering mind, have occurred.  The piece does seem to change my interaction with my environment.  I am more silent.  More aware.  Interestingly enough, the cat has been completely silent all day.  I’ve never known him to be so.  Personal emotions in regard to interacting with the piece itself have ranged from the expected boredom to piqued interest and actual frustration.  I’ll be intrigued to see if any of these become more extreme as time continues.

4:13PM- I have decided that being halfway done calls for some time outdoors.  I will now take a walk/run.  Perhaps yet another new environment will provide new perspective.

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Lost time.

1:12PM- Because I’m more aware of sounds around me, I am very aware of the sounds I’m making while eating.  Have I always munched this loudly?

1:22PM- I just had the first hint of annoyance.  I’m about a third of the way through, so this may not bode well for the final third of listening.

1:29PM- Uh oh.  The final seven notes in the bass theme have started to remind me of the clock tower on UF’s campus.  Actually, I think I’d like it if it played this instead from time to time…

3:18PM- Did I just fall asleep?  I’m not exactly sure.  Either way, it’s been almost two hours when I thought it was perhaps 30 minutes.

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Fading.

11:23AM- Reached the 200 mark – close to a quarter of the way done.

11:30AM- I’ve realized something odd.  I talk to myself quite a bit.  That’s not what’s odd; I’ve known this for years.  I haven’t been talking to myself at all today, though.  It’s as if the piece is curbing my habit- I’m subconsciously treating this as a concert performance, even though there is no one else around.

12:13PM- I completely forgot I was listening to the piece.  I think this is the farthest into the background it’s gotten so far.

12:22PM- Surprisingly, time seems to be going faster.  The small cue of the louder entrance when the recording loops seems to be happening more often now.  It’s starting to create its own pulse.

12:49PM- It’s strange.  The longer I listen (or fade in and out of listening, really), the less familiar I feel with the piece.  Notes still surprise me at times.  Only the bass theme stays constant.  I should eat something.

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Doing things.

10:00AM- I’m going to make some coffee and have some brunch.

10:03AM- I realized I can’t really be listening to the piece, or even hearing it, if the coffee grinder is running.  Headphones it is.

10:05AM- I am out of milk.  Perhaps this is an excuse to walk to Publix for a little social experiment?  Later.  For now, I drink my coffee milk-less.

10:09AM- Even through the headphones, the coffee maker adds quite an interesting counter-melody to the piece.  Also, something that’s caught my attention but for some reason evaded my desire to write it down was the clock specifically.  The piece is being played around quarter note=42, so the not quite 2/3 relationship to the clock (at quarter note=60) is…interesting to say the least.

10:24AM- I was humming along to the bass and took a notable wrong step.  This may be what Whittington was talking about, the sheer magnitude of the piece requiring concentration to get it right.

10:38AM- Allowing myself to walk around the apartment while the computer is playing the piece lets me hear the piece in several different spaces at various distances.  The effect is probably not the boredom Satie intended, but is surely interesting.  Am I cheating?  Most likely.*  Perhaps later I’ll force myself to use headphones for several hours at once.

10:45AM- I’m not sure what it is about the chordal sections between the bass theme that are so completely incapable of grabbing my attention anymore.  Perhaps the change of texture is more dramatic when voices are removed than when voices are added.  Either this is significant, or it’s just dumb luck that every time I zone back in, it’s during the bass theme.

11:07AM- I just took a shower.  Lots of interesting things happened in the different sonic environment.  First, I had to take my computer in without my nicer speakers, resulting in a timbral shift.  The piece also alerted me to the fact that my shower head now produces a loud, high pitched hiss on a high F#/G.  Speaking of that range, I heard, very distinctly, at the beginning of the bass theme, that note creating a close to perfect fifth with the C natural being played.  I don’t know if it was the shower head or some overtone I was hearing, but I didn’t perceive it the same way once the water was turned off.  Now I subconsciously hear it at the beginning of the bass theme.  Is the theme now starting in C major?  I also decided it was best to leave the cat outside the room.  He was not happy, and I could hear him through the door.  He does not sing in key.

*Note: My concern that I’m “cheating” is only half-hearted.  This is an experiment in how Vexations is heard over the course of a typical day, not in the context of the concert hall.  I’ll probably make a post tomorrow containing my initial thoughts on what this all means.

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A bit uneventful.

8:20AM- Without anything “new” to listen for, I began to listen to the subtleties of the performance itself. The click of the piano keys, the slight fluctuations in tempo and volume (noting one MAJOR decrescendo during the last iteration on this recording, giving it away), the decay of each note, etc. This reminds me of a very large scale “Come Out,” the notes finally giving way to sonic objects, distinct entities rather than implied relationships.

9:15AM- Zoned out for a good half hour. The music is fading into the background of my perception unless I’m consciously thinking about it. I’m only a bit more than two hours in, so I have no idea how it’ll be at 18 or 19 hours.

9:51AM- I’ve realized that it’s almost exclusively the bass theme that draws my attention back to the music, if anything does. It’s happening once or twice every ten minutes or so. I’m not sure if that’s something inherent in the piece or a quirk of this recording.

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It begins.

6:30-7:00AM- I tried to engage in some of Satie’s suggested “serious immobility,” and it proved harder than expected. My apartment is much louder than I’d like. Clocks, cats, neighbors, refrigerators…I went out to the car, which was quieter, but much colder as well.

7:00AM- The piece begins. For the first few cycles, I’m trying to predict the “direction” of the notes and chords, and I’m finding my expectations continually frustrated, but not necessarily in a bad way. By the third cycle, I’ve near memorized the bass line. The “inverted” theme seems easier to follow. The last three notes in the bass before the final E sound awfully tonal.

7:15AM- The bass line is much easier to listen to, as it’s easier to create a tonal listening of it.

7:20AM- I’ve lost track of the number of cycles past. I could just do the math, as I assume I will later to make sure I’m listening to all 840, but for now, I’ll let it be.

7:36AM- I just hummed the bass line half-consciously. As far as I know, I didn’t make any mistakes.

7:45AM- Either my estimation skills are horrible (likely), or I’ve zoned out more than I thought already. I’ve already listened to 33 cycles, where my guess was somewhere in the 20s.

7:58AM- Close to the one hour mark, I instinctively feel the need to get out my chair. Trained for intermissions, I guess? This can be a good excuse to edit and post my first observations.

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