Feature Profile – Vexations on Wall St.

“In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence with serious immobilities.”

These are the late composer, Erik Satie’s, only instructions on Vexations, his 18-hour composition, consisting of 4 lines of 13 beats, repeated 840 times. This June 21st on Wall Street, percussionist and long-time MMNY contributor Amy Garapic (Village in Volume; Inuksuit”) will lead a unique outdoor vibraphone performance of the piece, as part of Make Music New York 2012.

In conjunction with the NYC performance, about a dozen other countries will perform the piece simultaneously, video of which will be streaming live at worldwidevexations.com on June 21st. It’s an ambitious international project that’s grown with the passion of those involved, and Worldwide Vexations promises to be a highlight of this year’s festival internationally.

Amy came to the project after it had been discussed in passing by accomplished percussionists Alan Zimmerman and Doug Perkins. When this idea’s fate looked uncertain, Doug encouraged Amy to take the reins and organize the performance for Make Music.

This particular composition was first published by legendary composer John Cage, in 1949, and its first public performance also organized by Cage in 1963. Coinciding with Cage’s centenary celebration, Vexations is a worthy tribute, and an extension of that original performance in some ways.

It’s a mysterious piece of music: no instrumentation, no tempo, no dynamic. And an outdoor public performance poses its own challenges, especially in New York City. But if Amy Garapic is worried, she certainly isn’t showing it. “I’m expecting it to be mentally taxing,” she says — but of course, she’ll relish the actual performance. Amy, along with 8 to 10 other top NYC percussionists, will perform half-hour rotations.

The music is bound to take on a life of its own for these performers. The repetition, the lack of resolution, the unforgiving and unrelenting nature of the piece is something that’s intrigued Amy from the start. She’s wrestled with it herself, and is curious about how the suit-and-tie Wall St. crowd will interact with the music.

“The title is Vexations: to vex; to annoy; to bother. I think it’s ok if people are, maybe, a little bothered by it,” she says. “It’s a different kind of bothersome than just loud noise or too much noise.”

On the heels of the Occupy movement, it’ll certainly be something of an aural occupation, or maybe an indifferent reflection on the modern work-a-day world.

Amy’s been surprised and moved by the international community’s willingness to take part in this unique event, helmed by a young New York performer like herself. But on the morning of our interview she’d just confirmed, with excitement, the addition of two new countries — Portugal and Argentina — with performances being led by respected international percussionists.

Vexations will bring together three centuries of artists across the world, simultaneously. “It’s just a vibraphone,” Amy says, “but it’s a cool thing that doesn’t happen very often.”

Vexations happens June 21st on Wall St. at Broad St.. We hope you’ll experience this unique performance with us, as part of the international Make Music festivities.

Vexations | Wall St. at Broad St. – Manhattan | 6am – midnight | worldwidevexations.com