The first ever Pianoctambule 24-hour piano music event takes place this Saturday and Sunday (16-17 September) in Le Mans. The musical marathon is organised by local association L’Esperluette with backing from the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.
Several artists will perform during the twice-round-the-clock exploit, including François-René Duchâble and actor/director Alain Carré, who will interpret Roman des 24 Heures du Mans, a tale of the Le Mans 24 Hours combining music, images and engine sounds.
Another remarkable performance will be that of Nicolas Horvath. He will sit down on his piano stool at 3 o’clock on Saturday afternoon and start to play Erik Satie’s piece Vexations, alone, for a full 24 hours, until 3 o’clock on Sunday afternoon.
The event is a nod to the 24 Hours of Le Mans where the roar of the engines really is music to the fans’ ears. As Pierre Fillon, ACO President, explains: “Race car engines hum melodiously and the sound of the Matra V12s and the Jaguars are part of Le Mans’ original score. As well as the roar of the engine, our race’s soundtrack includes other voices such as the cheer and chatter of the crowd in the grandstands, their screams as they enjoy the funfair, the pulse of the wheel guns in the pits, and the whirr of the engines as the cars accelerate back out of the pitlane.”
Like the drivers, Nicolas Horvath follows a strict training programme: “I practice Vexations at home. Then I fast for a full three days before the concert and I gradually reduce my activity levels. You need to prepare and understand your body, and you need the strength of mind to see it through.” During his musical performance, he will treat himself to a few squares of milk chocolate and an energy drink or two: “That helps me stay awake.”
This will be Horvath’s twelfth 24-hour performance of Vexations, but the first time at the venue of the legendary French endurance race.
This year’s winning Porsche 919 Hybrid covered 367 laps of the circuit, or just over 5,000 km at an average 208.4 km/h, but with three drivers taking turns. One stint lasts an average 45 minutes (before refuelling) but a driver can do several stints in a row.
In comparison, Horvath will play the Vexations score 840 times in all, with no pitstops or teammates! The score itself lasts 1 min 42 sec and he will play it 42 times an hour! His biggest fear is cramp. “The first time I played Vexations in 2010, I got cramp five hours in. As I continued to play, I had to focus on my muscles, one by one, to identify which were affected and then relax them. That first performance was quite a learning curve! There is something special about Vexations. With its musical austerity (there is no melody) and its haunting aspect, it is like a mantra. The audience helps me stay the course!”
16 September from 15:00 until 17 September 15:00, 24 hours of piano music featuring 35 artists at Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts
16 September at 15:30, "Le Piano Oriental"/ Zeina Abirached at Théâtre Scarron
16 September at 20:30, "Le Roman des 24H du Mans"/François-René Duchâble, at Cité du Cirque