The Paris Review

The Duration of “Vexations”

Erik Satie

Those who have undergone weeks-long silent-meditation retreats can attest to the power of durational focus. Stay with one thing long enough and miracles might occur. In mid-September, at East London’s Café Oto, a venue known for avant-garde performances, the musician Charles Hayward presented “30 Minute Snare Drum Roll.” The piece could not be more functional or self-explanatory in its title. What happened, however, in those eighteen thousand seconds of continuous drumming was the opposite of readily explicable.

A drumroll is a sonic metonym for anticipation, so is an ironizing indication that what follows may fall short of spectacular but that it should nonetheless be eagerly awaited and greeted. Hayward’s feat subverted this notion. The preliminary, introductory flourish became the event itself. At Café Oto, Hayward stood hunched over a single, spotlit drum as the seated audience was held rapt by the speed and precision and, most of all, of his playing.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review2 min read
Redux: Summer Surprised Us
Every week, the editors of The Paris Review lift the paywall on a selection of interviews, stories, poems, and more from the magazine’s archive. You can have these unlocked pieces delivered straight to your inbox every Sunday by signing up for the Re
The Paris Review4 min read
Daša Drndić’s ‘EEG’ And The Joys Of Pessimism
Daša Drndić The most convincing literary pessimists are superior stylists. They smooth their nihilistic impulses into pleasing shapes. Despair is largely inimical to art, while melancholy—its pensive, perfumed cousin—makes of the void something parad
The Paris Review13 min read
A Mosh Pit of One’s Own
Fea. Photo courtesy of Blackheart. “A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction,” Virginia Woolf writes in 1929. The same applies to being a musician, in that Woolf really means autonomy, making your own space in which to