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Erik Satie \ Vexations [TWI 1245 / CD]

Les Disques du Crepuscule is pleased to announce CD and vinyl editions of landmark avant-garde composition Vexations by Erik Satie, originally written in 1893.

The extraordinary score for Vexations is just three lines long, yet a complete performance (840 repetitions) may last for anything between 14 and 28 hours. First performed under the supervision of John Cage in 1963, this radical, enigmatic, proto-Surrealist work is now recognised as a significant milestone in the avant-garde canon.

Some credit Vexations with occult numerical meaning; others discern Satie's greatest musical prank, or a "poor man's Ring of the Nibelung". Curiously, despite the almost infinitely repetitive nature of the piece, the central 18 note motif is notoriously hard to remember. Few solo pianists have been able to negotiate a complete performance of all 840 repetitions, although in 2012 a non-stop performance lasting 35 hours was undertaken in Tokyo.

This meditative 70 minute recording features 40 repetitions of the motif, performed by Alan Marks on piano. The recording was produced by Thomas Wilbrandt. Both the CD and vinyl versions include detailed liner notes by Marks and musicologist Stephen Whittington.

The vinyl edition is limited to 500 copies pressed on clear vinyl, and comes with a bonus digital copy (MP3).

CD + digital tracklist:

1. Vexations (69.42)

LP tracklist:

A1. Vexations (Pt 1) 22.25
A2. Vexations (Pt 2) 22.34

Available on LP, CD and digital (MP3 or FLAC). CDs ordered direct from LDDC are slipcased. To order please first select correct shipping option (UK, Europe or Rest of World) and then click on Add To Cart button below cover image. Digital copies are delivered to customers via email link.

Or, you can order with the option of tracked shipping from our friends at Burning Shed (click here to order)

Vexations [TWI 1245 / CD]
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"While its generally accepted that Brian Eno identified the ambient music concept with 1975's Discreet Music, it's stretching things to argue that he invented it. Though his liner notes famously refer to the goal of making music 'a part of the ambience of the environment', in truth this was purely an adjustment to a notion established by composer Erik Satie in 1917. 'Furniture music', as the Frenchman defined it, represented 'a sound that should not be actively listened to, but present at the periphery of our daily lives.' Eno's notes, it must be stressed, acknowledged his debt. Twenty years earlier still, in the mid 1890s, Satie had penned Vexations, which bears remarkable similarities to Eno's work. Alan Marks' 70 minute interpretation offers only 40 iterations of what Satie likely intended as both a satirical reaction to Wagner's recent protracted Ring Cycle and a pastiche of perpetuum mobile, the celebration of technical virtuosity in vogue at the time. Most fascinating is how the theme, initially devoid of any familiar sense of melody, develops a melodious quality through acquaintance, while the absence of resolution simultaneously lends an air of exasperating uneasiness. Boasting an antique humanity that Eno's generative works lack, however, it represents, even today, an indispensable, prescient contribution to a genre that's rarely been healthier. 8/10" (Uncut, 11/2019)

"Satie's piano piece requires 840 repetitions of a one-page manuscript. Single notes played haltingly, which are then rendered as chords, 18 of each. To play it as instructed would take 14 hours. There's just an hour here, and you can hear the pedals creak as pianist Alan Marks makes his way through this peculiar but hypnotising work" (Electronic Sound, 12/2019)

"Vexations has become a cause celebre within the avant-garde, anticipating many of the arguments about the serious intentions, or otherwise, of John Cage's 4.33 by nearly 60 years. The score consists of three lines of music and Satie's instructions "to be repeated 840 times." On this recording, Alan Marks makes do with a mere 40 repetitions over 70 minutes, but it's enough to reveal the brilliance of Satie's concept. The slippery chromatism he employs means it's easy to become disorientated even well into the piece, and he demands that listeners keep their ears open throughout. Satie issues a visionary warning about the vapid nature of ambient listening, spanking George Winston and weighing in on the side of Morton Feldman before either had been born." (The Wire, 11/2005)

"Alan Marks is as persuasive an advocate as we are likely to find for a piece that creates its own time-zone" (The Gramophone, 07/1991)

"There are a number of pieces of music that have attained mythical status. Cage's 4.33 is one, and Satie's Vexations is another. Vexations is one of those pieces I had only read about. It sounded great on paper, but I was sceptical whether or not it translated into actual music. While I haven't stuck the CD on repeat for 24 hours I do think it works fantastically. The music is written to be nearly impossible to remember, and no matter how many times I listened to it I couldn't find my place in the motif. Alan Marks has done a wonderful job here, and he seems comfortable with the piece. A nice introduction to Satie's infamous work" (, 2005)

"Very, very brave indeed" (Whisperin' & Hollerin', 02/2006)

"Vexations is one of those curiosities bequeathed by one generation, which only later generations have the aesthetic tools to handle. It's no wonder that the work meant so much to Cage, whose views on harmony were trailed by Satie all those decades earlier" (International Piano, 7-8/2006)

"So frighteningly ahead of it's time, it's like finding a medieval laptop" (Plan B, 02/2007)

Vexations [TWI 1245 / CD]