The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892–1897
September 30, 2017 4:53 PM   Subscribe

The Magus of Paris is an article by Alex Ross about Symbolist author and art impresario Joséphin Péladan, and the artists he championed in his The Salon de la Rose+Croix in the 1890s, which is the focus of the Guggenheim exhibition Magical Symbolism. The website has various articles, including one about Symbolist poetry (with an accompanying SoundCloud page with readings) and another by Nat Trotman on putting on a 19 hour concert featuring only a single piece three and a half minutes in length called Vexations, by the best known participant in Péladan's salon, Erik Satie. New York Times' critic Joshua Barone staid for the whole duration. The first full performance of the piece was in 1963, organized by John Cage in New York and the Times covered it then too.
posted by Kattullus (7 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I read both Times reviews; the new one, by Joshua Barone, is enjoyable ("2 A.M. I began to wonder whether a man who had been rocking his head to the music all night was actually insane"), but I particularly recommend the 1963 tag-team one (last link):

"At 9:20, big influx of audience; house now holds 32. Augurs well for the evening."

4 to 7 A.M. "The reviewer, who humbly requested that his name not be mentioned, entered and promptly fell asleep."
posted by languagehat at 5:38 PM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks for the post Kattullus: I've a soft spot for the Symbolists, daft as they were.

John Cale made a TV appearance before his participation in the 1963 perfomance of Vexations.
posted by misteraitch at 11:34 PM on September 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

That was a wonderful bit of television, misteraitch! Looking up Karl Schanzer's subsequent life, I found this short obituary.
posted by Kattullus at 3:25 AM on October 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

That was a wonderful bit of television, misteraitch! Looking up Karl Schanzer's subsequent life, I found this short obituary.

That was actually a mistake on Alex Ross's part. The man on the broadcast with John Cale was Karl Schenzer with an E, not Schanzer. I even emailed Karl Schanzer with an A to ask him if he was the guy with John Cale, and he said No. It's mentioned in the TV clip that Schenzer had just appeared in a play called The Brig, which had been put on off-Broadway by the experimental theatre troupe, The Living Theatre. (Jim Morrison claimed The Living Theatre as a huge influence on his performing style, for example.)

Based on the connection to the play The Brig, I did a little more research into Karl Schenzer, where I discovered he had worked as an assistant for the performance artist and filmmaker, Carolee Schneemann. I eventually emailed Carolee Schneemann through her website, and she had nothing but kind words to say about her collaborator, but she said he had died years before. The trail went cold after that.
posted by jonp72 at 1:28 PM on October 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

There's a site on Andy Warhol called that also has some really good info on the 1963 performance of Vexations: Notes on John Cage, Erik Satie's Vexations and Andy Warhol's Sleep. There's a debate among Andy Warhol scholars about whether he attended that 1963 performance Vexations & if he did attend that performance, did the performance of Vexations influence Andy to put out his own exceedingly long multi-hour films like Sleep and Empire? The essay on says that Warhol did not attend, but I have also seen other Warhol sources, including from people who say they attended the concert with him.

The essay has an image of the original copy detailing the relay team of pianists who did the original performance. Most of them became famous as avant-garde performers or composers in their own right, not just John Cale. There was David Tudor, who was the primary interpreter of John Cage's piano compositions, including his "performance" of the premiere of 4'33". Christian Wolff, David Del Tredici, Philip Corner, and James Tenney were also part of the relay team & all were already or about to become celebrated experimental composers as well. Viola Farber wasn't a composer, but went on to be a major choreographer with Merce Cunningham. One of the "mystery guest" pianists was Joshua Rifkin who played in the Even Dozen Jug Band with a pre-Lovin' Spoonful John Sebastian, produced a few Judy Collins albums, and later became the musicologist responsible for the Scott Joplin revival of the 1970s.

The 1963 Vexations performance was almost like that legendary 1976 concert of the Sex Pistols at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall. It not only raised the profile of Erik Satie or John Cage, but it made almost everybody it touched famous too.
posted by jonp72 at 1:45 PM on October 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

Thanks, jonp72!
posted by Kattullus at 1:56 PM on October 1, 2017

There's another great piece Vexations and Its Performers by the composer Gavin Bryars. One reason they did the 1963 performance with relay teams is apparent after people attempted to do the composition solo. When the composer David Toop did the first complete public solo performance of Vexations, he asked for a stimulant so that he would have the endurance to continue. He was given a cup coffee, but he didn't discover until after he drank it that it was spiked with methedrine. Other performers who have put on marathon solo performances of Vexations have reported experiencing hallucinations.
posted by jonp72 at 3:12 PM on October 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Orange you glad I didn't say leadership race?   |   Alheira & Foole: Two Foods of Large Impact Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments