Preview: Vexations by Erik Satie – Fundraiser for OCD UK 

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This isn’t so much a preview, more a recap of previous concerts, being part of the full venture and a look out for coming concerts as well.

It is the year of French composer Erik Satie. His 150th birthday was back in May and we had a big celebratory bash for him. It dawned on me last year that no one in Cardiff was honouring this great composer…so I realised it had to be me to bring him here!

Not only did we have Medusa’s Trap and a lovely concert to follow it at Sunflower & I, we staged his blizzard ballet uspud at Saint Edward’s Church, as part of madeinroath.

I had contemplated doing his most demanding work Vexations for some time. It was only when I discovered the true effect of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder on my family in recent months, did I obtain the courage to stage it. The relationship between the piece and OCD comes from its excessively repetitive demand on the musician. It is more than vexing!

[Related: TheSprout’s Mental Health page has info, advice and organisations that you could help you]

The work is one page long and Satie suggests (rather than demands) that it be played a staggering 840 times. This is a piece which has had a bold history and it’s infamy lies in its duration. At the premier in New York in 1963, (38 years after Satie’s death) it took 18 hours and 40 minutes to complete the full amount of repetitions. It lasts only a mere two minutes.

For our project, although The Abacus arts centre may be temporarily closed (we could have done it as a standard all nighter there), I’ve made the decision to play the piece in as many different venues in Cardiff and the surrounding area as possible. So far we have 13 venues involved, have done six concerts so far and have played it over 360 times. It has dawned on me that this could very well be the longest Vexations project ever conceived…

Why this piece? Why OCD UK? 

Vexations performances seem to frequently pop up worldwide. In this year alone, there has been full concerts of it in Estonia, Paris and more locally Cheltenham and Brighton (I played 20 reps at the latter). I wanted to bring it to Cardiff, to raise awareness of the composer, but more importantly OCD as an condition. OCD UK have been an invaluable and supportive resource for myself and my family and that is why I’ve chose them to fundraise for.

Vexations is the definition of obsession. Although we can’t diagnose some one who is dead, Satie showed characterises of numerous conditions and disorders, that would not have been known in this own lifetime. Some people fundraise by running a marathon, others to swim or have bake offs. I choose to put on one of the longest and most demanding works of music ever written.

I’ve played it over 185 times at the first few concerts and it can take it toll. I’m not classically trained (I’ve simply learnt the keys), so it is a memory game in which keys follow. The notation is fiendishly tricky and I’ve heard many a trained musician slip up their playing, such is the composer’s mockery. It’s a beguiling theme, that can have a hypnotic effect on the listener and if you become annoyed with it, that is the attention.

As I write this, it has dawned on me that we have 14 venues involved, with some more to be confirmed in the near future! We are more than thankful to each and every venue that have kindly donated their spaces to us, all the musicians who have played and also those who gave anonymous  Stories of Obsession (we’ve read these at some of the concerts).

However, in order to reach the target of 840 reps, we need more venues to donate and more musicians to play. It doesn’t have to be on piano, we’d welcome any instruments, even remixes and rap artists to be involved. The key is collaboration, as Satie himself always strived for.

If interested we’d love to hear from you. We’ll continue the piece till the very end and we already have concerts planned till late January. 

Email us at Strictly no spam!

Donate online to the project via Just Giving.

Donations are welcome at all concerts.

The Vexations fundraiser continues at the following venues: 

Cardiff Masonic Lodge, Thursday 24th November 2016 – 1pm till 4pm.
Dada House Party, Friday 25th November 2016 – 7pm till 1am (email for location).
ArcadeCardiff Gallery, Saturday 26th November 2016 – 1pm till 5pm.
Dyffryn House, date TBC
Wales Millennium Centre, Date TBC
Sofar Sounds, location TBC, Saturday 10th December 2016 – 8pm till 9:30 (please note this is a concert with a charge, as the Vexations is featured alongside other musicians, donations still welcome).
Pirate Studios (a live stream is planned), Saturday 14th January 2017 – times TBC.
Saint John the Baptist Church, Saturday 21st January 2017 – 2pm till 2:45pm.

Octavio’s, Vexations & book launch of Caroline Potter’s Erik Satie: A Parisian Composer and His World, Jan 2017, exact date TBC.



Open Call For Musicians & Venues For Erik Satie’s Vexations Fundraiser For OCD UK

In Photos: Medusa’s Trap & Satie’s 150th Birthday Celebration @ Sunflower & I

Mental Health

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