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Vexations

 
dr kruger is taking us home

In honour of the 150th birthday of Erik Satie, our Music Department performed his composition “Vexations” at the end of the school term. This was no ordinary performance, but a momentous task, as although the piece is only one minute in length, it is required to be played 840 times. Dr Kruger who orchestrated the performance arranged for more than 20 pianists including current music students, Jeppe Old Girls, teachers and parents to take part, each playing for 15 minutes before handing over to the next player. The piece required one pianist to continue from the previous one, without a break in the performance. The performance started at 18:00 on Friday evening and lasted 19 hours, 57 minutes and 52.72 seconds!

The event took place in the school hall with a small group of supporters which dwindled to 1 in the small hours of the morning. Dr Kruger kept a log of the experience which covered the highs and lows.

Ms Venter (class of 2011) sees the new day in at 255 repetitions

Ms Venter (class of 2011) sees the new day in at 255 repetitions

 

Hooray - the half way mark with Angela Xia after 10 hours and 20 minutes

Hooray – the half way mark with Angela Xia after 10 hours and 20 minutes

The players pressed on through the night, having to make some changes to the roster as some of the girls could not be roused out of their deep slumber. At 03:05 in the morning, the corridors of the school are colder than ever! Eventually drastic measures had to be taken to wake up sleeping girls to continue playing.

When asked why the school performed “Vexations”, Dr Kruger had this to say: “Initially thought it was because we can, because it is fun, because there is no danger in this unusual act – it’s not the same as jumping from an aeroplane and hoping that your parachute will open; THAT is the kind of behaviour that I question.“ As the evening progressed however, with the seemingly never-ending cycle of resonating atonal noise, and the cold and the sleeplessness, her answer changed. “ Why are we doing this?….. Everyone will take something with them from the Vexations-experience: maybe you will appreciate your soft bed tomorrow night; maybe you will never complain again that it’s too hot; maybe you will value the beauty of silence. In spite of all the maybe’s, one thing is for certain: it is an experience that none of us will ever forget.

A breath-taking sunrise brought revitalized energy to the team and a steady flow of audience, strong coffee, and playing every and any board game available, ensured a reasonable state of consciousness. The way in which energy-reserves were revived as the counter ticked 799, 800, 801 was quite remarkable. It was decided that the last thirty-six repetitions would be played by the three remaining music teachers, Ms Conradie, Ms Venter and Dr Kruger.

At the end of Jeppe’s performance of Vexations, the stopwatch read 19:57:52,72 and the silence was truly golden! Savannah, Nontsiki, Angie, Lesego, Ms Goncalves (headmistress) and Mr Tait celebrated with worn-out teachers- school holidays had finally started!

It is the repetitive nature of this performance that put the endurance and persistence of the pianists to test. It is an exercise in perseverance; goal setting and achievement and above all, peer support and teamwork

Jeppe High School for Girls is the first school in South Africa to have competed this performance in its entirety.

Savannah Aysen, Angela Xia,Nontsiki Tshefu and Lesego Molefe celebrate the end of the performance

Savannah Aysen, Angela Xia, Nontsiki Tshefu and Lesego Molefe celebrate the end of the performance