MSP/Piano: 22-hour improv marathon on a theme by Satie — Vexations [Re-vex’d] @ Berkeley Arts (beginning 2pm Sat 23 Mar, ending approx. noon, Sun 24 Mar)

Last September’s Berkeley Arts Satie/Cage Vexations marathon proved that many strange, wonderful, and unintended things happen when you try to repeat an enigmatic theme 840 times over a 22-hour period.

I am honored that Berkeley Arts Festival has given me the opportunity to organize a possibly even more bizarre follow-up, with an improvisational bent (and many bent improvisations…).

Erik Satie

Now, hear 35+ of the Bay Area’s top improvisers in a wide variety of genres ranging from free jazz to classical to electronic as they find out what strange, wonderful, and unintended things happen when you create something new from that enigmatic Satie theme 840 times in our Vexations [Re-vex’d] improv marathon, from 2pm Sat 23 Mar to approx. noon Sun 24 Mar, 2013 at Berkeley Arts Festival (2133 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA) .

Projected line-up:

Steve Adams, Nancy Beckman, Tom Bickley, Myles Boisen,

Mark Clifford, Joseph Colombo, Patti Deuter, Thea Farhadian, Adam Fong, Matthew Goodheart, Phillip Greenlief, Diane GrubbeRon Heglin, Jeff Hobbs, Jason Hoopes, Matt Ingalls, Roger Kim, Sung Kim (숭), Heikki Koskinen, Joe Lasqo, Scott Looney, Fernando Lopez-Lezcano & El Dinosaurio, Ric Louchard, Bob Marsh, Josh Marshall, Crystal Pascucci, Noah Phillips, Rent Romus[ruidobello] (aka Jorge Bachmann), Dean Santomieri, John Schott, Christina Stanley, Anton Vishio, Eli Wallace, Paul Winstanley

First some background on the original Satie theme, and then more details of line-up and schedule….

Le jeune Satie

Composer, Rosicrucian, Dadaist, cabaret pianist, socialist, and founder/prophet/sole member of L’Église Métropolitaine d’Art de Jésus Conducteur (Metropolitan Church of Art of Jesus the Conductor), Satie remains a Rashomon of personae.

Whether playing pop and improvising at the Chat Noir cabaret; discussing compositional theory with Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc or Milhaud (later of Mills College…); or working and playing with artists like Cocteau, Diaghilev, Picasso, Bracque, Tristan Tzara, André Breton, and Man Ray; Satie always drifted serenely at the cross-roads of irreconcilable contradictions and could never be fit into a coherent frame.

La maison de Satie à Arcueil

Over the course of his 27 years in his final residence at the “House with Four Chimneys” at Arcueil, no one had ever visited his room. After his death, Satie’s friends discovered compositions that were totally unknown or thought to have been lost. These were found behind the piano, in the pockets of his velvet suits, and in other odd places in the chaotic, disordered space, and included the Vexations [1].

Never performed (or even mentioned) in Satie’s lifetime, the Vexations were revived by John Cage, leading to a premiere by an incredible team of pianists including Cage, David Tudor, Christian Wolff, John Cale, David Del Tredici, and others in 1963. (After the 840th repetition, someone in the audience shouted, “Encore!”…)

Causing strong hallucinations and failure to complete the performance to some pianists who have dared to try playing the piece alone, this endless ocean of mesmerizing unsettled waves is a pioneering work of minimalisme avant la lettre.

Très lent... pli selon pli...

Despite a score that’s only one page long, its strikingly eccentric and impractical enharmonic notation, ambiguous playing directions, refusal to resolve into any tonality, and, of course, unorthodox duration, make the piece challenging to play and remember, demanding a highly attentive trance state which is then aurally transmitted to the audience.

Satie à l'harmonium - dessin de Santiago Rusiñol

As enigmatic as was Satie himself, theVexations have been variously analyzed as a post-traumatic reaction to the end of his only known love affair (with Suzanne Valadon) or a secret numerological theology.

The flat-5 interval so prominent in the piece was traditionally known as the “Devil in music”; the piece unfolds in “inauspicious” 13-beat cycles; the number of notes in the manuscript, 108, is the product of 1-to-the-first x 2-squared x 3-cubed; and the number of repetitions, 840, is the product of all the numbers between 4 and 7… Coincidence….? Trail of red herrings…? “In-joke”…? If not, what meaning does this hold in any of the cultic systems that Satie participated in or devised?

The only thing to do in response is come and hear a part (or… if you dare… ALL!) of this unique Bay Area performance.

Subject to change, and may be updated, but as of now, here are the details of the team bringing this unique experience to your ears (in alphabetical order with start times, etc.):

Steve Adams

Steve Adams (electronics & winds)

3:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

10am, Sun 24 Mar

Tom Bickley

Nancy Beckman & Tom Bickley, in the Gusty Winds May Exist duo (winds & electronics)

Nancy Beckman

— 5:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

— 8pm, Sat 23 Mar

Myles Boisen (Photo by Michael Zelner)

Myles Boisen (guitar)

Myles will do duets with John Schott

12:30am, Sun 24 Mar &— 6:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Mark Clifford

Mark Clifford (mallets & percussion)

7pm, Sat 23 Mar

11:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

Joseph Colombo

Joseph Colombo (piano)

4:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

4am, Sun 24 Mar

Patti Deuter performs Cage's "Four Walls" @ Berkeley Arts Festival

Patti Deuter (piano)

— Opening fanfare (2pm, Sat 23 Mar)

— Final Dozen (noon or after, Sun 24 Mar)

Thea Farhadian

Thea Farhadian (violin & processing)

— 11:30am, Sun 24 Mar (duet with Dean Santomieri)

Adam Fong

Adam Fong (bass)

9:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

midnight, Sun 24 Mar

Matthew Goodheart & computer-actuated gong

Matthew Goodheart (piano & computer-actuated acoustic instruments)

6:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

Phillip Greenlief

Phillip Greenlief (saxes)

1am, Sun 24 Mar

Diane Grubbe

Diane Grubbe (flute)

3am, Sun 24 Mar

— 5:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Ron Heglin (photo by Tom Djll / Djll Pixels)

Ron Heglin (voice, trombone and/or tuba),

— Duet with Joe Lasqo8:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

— Solo or duet with Paul Winstanley7am, Sun 24 Mar

Jeff Hobbs (L) & Bob Marsh (R)

Jeff Hobbs (violin, cornet, or…?)

4pm, Sat 23 Mar

Jason Hoopes and friends...

Jason Hoopes (bass)

7:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

Matt Ingalls

Matt Ingalls (winds)

2:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

Roger Kim (center) & bandmates from First Day

Roger Kim (guitar)

4:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Sung Kim (김숭) with Hare & Arrow, playing the Gigantar

Sung Kim/숭 (invented instruments)

— Solo @ 9pm, Sat 23 Mar

— Duet with Rent Romus @ 10:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

Heikki Koskinen playing the Morrison Digital Trumpet

Heikki Koskinen (digital trumpet, piano, and/or recorders)

11pm, Sat 23 Mar

Joe Lasqo @ Meridian Gallery, 11 Jan 2012 (Photo:,

Joe Lasqo (laptop, piano, glockenspiel)

— Duet with Ron Heglin @ 8:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

— 10:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Scott Looney

Scott Looney (piano / hyper-piano)

— Duets with Rent Romus2am Sun 24 Mar

— Solo @ 8:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Ric Louchard

Ric Louchard (piano)

1:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Bob Marsh performing in Sonic Suit #2, Outsound New Music Summit, 2011 (Photo-,

Bob Marsh (cello, voice(?), & Sonic Suit #1)

8am, Sun 24 Mar

11am, Sun 24 Mar

Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall (sax)

Duets with Crystal Pascucci:

6am, Sun 24 Mar

— 9am, Sun 24 Mar

Fernando Lopez-Lezcano

Fernando Lopez-Lezcano & El Dinosaurio

El DInosaurio

6pm, Sat 23 Mar

Fernando Lopez-Lezcano y El Dinosaurio

10pm, Sat 23 Mar

Crystal Pascucci

Crystal Pascucci (cello)

Duets with Josh Marshall:

— 6am, Sun 24 Mar

— 9am, Sun 24 Mar

Noah Phillips & Lisa Mezzacappa @ LSG, 31 Jan 2013 (Photo-, http//

Noah Phillips (guitar)

7:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Rent Romus, The Godfather of Avant Soul

Rent Romus (saxes and perhaps toys)

— Duet with Sung Kim (숭) @ 10:30pm, Sat 23 Mar

— Duet with Scott Looney @ 2am Sun 24 Mar

Ruidobello / Jorge Bachmann

[ruidobello] « aka Jorge Bachmann » (electronics)

9:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Dean Santomieri at Berkeley Arts, 12 Aug 2011 (Photo by Neo Serafimidis)

Dean Santomieri (guitar & astral invocation)

5pm, Sat 23 Mar (solo)

11:30am, Sun 24 Mar (duet with Thea Farhadian)

John Schott

John Schott (guitar)

John will do duets with Myles Boisen

— 12:30am, Sun 24 Mar &

— 6:30am, Sun 24 Mar

ChrIstina Stanley

Christina Stanley (violin and/or voice)

3pm, Sat Mar 23

Anton Vishio

Anton Vishio (tape & piano)

3:30am, Sun 24 Mar

5am, Sun 24 Mar

Eli Wallace

Eli Wallace (piano)

2:30am, Sun 24 Mar

Paul Winstanley

Paul Winstanley (extreme electric bass + odd bits)

— Duet with Ron Heglin7am, Sun 24 Mar

I’m honored to join with these stellar musicians and looking forward to being sucked in to the abyss of Satie’s enigmatic Vexations and much, much further.

...or… if you dare… ALL!

Come join us on our journey beyond normal consciousness…


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply