Vexations, Eric Satie


I had the pleasure of participating in a 22 hour marathon that played Vexations (all 840 repetitions) thorugh the minds and instruments of many performers. My participation included two 1/2 hour sets (at 6pm and 10pm) using my very old but still functioning "El Dinosaurio" analog patch cord programmable synthesizer. The synthesizer, MIDI keyboard, two speakers, laptop computer and mixer were all mounted in a rolling cart so the system would be ready to go and "rolled in" to the performance area once the previous performer was done with his/her slot.

The computer used a SuperCollider program that sequenced the MIDI notes that make up Vexations and split them up into its monophonic component melodies. The same software played them in sequence, recorded the monophonic sounds produced by the "El Dinosaurio" and slowly layered them in more and more complex textures. As the program recorded each monophonic melody I operated the controls of the synth to change the sound produced, adding filtering, detuning, dynamic vibrato, etc, etc. The SuperCollider program also allowed for transposition of the melodies by arbitrary amounts, to change the loudness balance of all the layers that had been recorded up to that given point, giving more or less preponderance to "older" versions of the score and to stretch or shrink layers in time so that the playback could be completely synchronized or wildly syncopated and disjointed. At the end of the 1/2 hour slot up to 19 different versions of Vexations were being played and layered by the mixing software

In addition to that the computer was also running SooperLooper, a free open source program for multiple looping. During the performance I took samples of some of the segments in different loops (up to eight of them) which were used during the piece to spice up the performance and at the end of the 1/2 hour segment to create a completely free repetition of the original Vexations score.


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