VEXATIONS FOR A FLAG POLE: SKY MUSIC
“Vexations for a Flag Pole: Sky Music” is a participatory ceremony derived from my list of “840 Variations on Vexations.” Guests were invited to a flag raising ceremony preceded by a rendition of “Vexations for Flag Signals,” a performance for which I rewrote the score to Erik Satie’s “Vexations” to be performed using semaphore. Guests of the flag raising were invited to use the smaller flags provided to follow along with the performance, and after, welcomed to create their own graphic versions of Satie’s score, which they could either take away with them or donate to my collection—any donated scores would be used in a future execution of a variation on “Vexations”.
The composer Erik Satie (1866-1925) may be considered an odd muse for our contemporary era. One of his lesser-known but influential compositions, “Vexations” is a short piano work preceded with an instructional inscription: “‘Vexations” should be played 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest of silence, by serious immobilities.” This direction lead to the interpretation that “Vexations” should be played 840 times in order to complete the performance of the piece as Satie intended. It is not known whether Satie’s instruction was meant to be taken literally, but has nonetheless come to characterize performances of the piece, leading to marathon public interpretations by challenge-hungry and endurance-seeking pianists. Looking to “Vexations” and its rule of 840 repetitions, I am developing a body of work that directly engages with Satie’s score and its metaphoric subtext of arduous and stoic labor.
“840 Variations on Vexations” is my annotated list of 840 potential projects ranging from objects, events, happenings, performances, sounds, new music and recordings. Through these projects I present conceptual and poetic responses to duration, endurance, labor, and artistic interpretation. The aim of this work is to provide possibilities and inspirations for artists and musicians considering their roles in labor and the re-inscription of the creative process.