Igor Levit Vexations
Program Starts In:
Over the past two months, 2018 Gilmore Artist Igor Levit has used his art to speak out on behalf of artists and audiences who have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. From his home in Berlin he has live streamed dozens of performances, gathering a worldwide following that numbers in the tens of thousands. With each concert Mr. Levit has strived to give comfort to those who miss the live music experience and to highlight the plight of artists who are suddenly, and without warning, out of work.
Now, in an epic effort to reach an even larger audience with his message, Mr. Levit will perform a concert that will transcend geographical borders and time zones. On Saturday, May 30, at 8:00 AM (ET), he will live stream from b-sharp studios in Berlin one of music history’s longest compositions: Erik Satie’s Vexations, which lasts approximately 20 hours. The work consists of a theme and two variations which are repeated 840 times by the artist.
Mr. Levit is financing the project with funds from his 2018 Gilmore Artist Award. Additional partners include Der Spiegel and The New Yorker, among others.
We encourage everyone to watch the start, as Mr. Levit introduces the piece, and to continue checking in periodically to post comments and support his artistic journey.
Reflecting on the project Mr. Levit said:
“It has always been a strong wish of mine to be able to perform Erik Satie’s Vexations. While written in the 19th century, this piece was revolutionary thanks to its atonal harmony. The few notes – a theme and two variations – fit on just one sheet. The 840 repetitions though herald early on a future of aesthetic repetitiveness. The sheer duration of over 20 hours of Vexations doesn’t feel like a ‘nuisance’ or ‘torture’ to me, as the title would suggest, but rather a retreat of silence and humility. It reflects a feeling of resistance.
“That’s why it feels right to play the Vexations right now. My world and that of my colleagues has been a different one for many weeks now and will probably remain so for a long time. Vexations represent for me a silent scream.”
Erik Satie composed Vexations circa 1893, though the work was unknown until an associate of the composer brought it to light in 1949. The world premiere in 1963 was organized by avant-garde composer John Cage and performed by a team of pianists in shifts at Manhattan’s Pocket Theatre. The meaning of the work is unclear and has been widely debated, and it has been theorized as parody, as a theoretical exercise, and even as a response to a failed romance.