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World's slowest concert crawls to 10th anniversary

The Local · 5 Sep 2011, 15:35

Published: 05 Sep 2011 15:35 GMT+02:00

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Late avant-garde American composer John Cage’s “Organ2/ASLSP As Slow aS Possible” was started on Sept. 5 2001 at a mediaeval church in the German town of Halberstadt. It is scheduled to last 639 years in total, finally ending in 2640.

Cage first wrote the piece five years before his death in 1987 to be played on the organ as an adaptation of a super-long piano composition he had earlier put together. It is supposed to challenge societal impressions of time and music.

The project’s organizers call it a way of slowing down people's hectic lives.

“As a generational project, this piece of music resists the fast reception; the simple solution which is preferred in our society,” the project website says.

But organizers had to build a soundproof barrier to tackle noise complaints from neighbours who tired of listening to the never-ending concert through the walls of the church in the Saxony-Anhalt town.

Rainer O. Neugebauer, the chair of the John Cage Organ Foundation, which is leading the project, said no special events are planned for the concert’s tenth anniversary, because every day the performance continues is a celebration of sorts. He said he’s “pretty confident” the piece will continue to be played to its conclusion, although funding is not secured.

“We have to survive without public subsidies, and we can only just keep afloat,” he said. “We are financed only through private donations.”

The next big landmark for the project comes in 2071, when the first of the piece’s eight parts comes to an end.

Story continues below…

In the meantime, visitors are welcome to visit the St. Burchardi church in order to witness the intervening years of the concert for themselves.

The Local/DAPD/mdm

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

17:11 September 5, 2011 by zeddriver
What a waist of time. Pun intended. How does one write a piece of music that is 600 years long. I always thought most composers took much more time to compose the music than it takes to play the composition.

If one does a little math. He wrote this over the last five years of his life. if a note lasts about 2-3 seconds He would have to have penned about 60 notes per minute 24 hrs a day over those five years. My math may be a little flawed. But still. You get the picture.

I call B.S.

A random note generator could do it. But, Would it really then be a true composition by a writer. Or just a computer program.
17:14 September 5, 2011 by marimay
I didn't know music could get worse than lady gaga.
20:04 September 5, 2011 by Bigfoot76
I wonder what itunes would charge for that download.
10:57 September 6, 2011 by NSR
zeddriver is rather missing the point. Cage didn't write a piece 600 years long. In fact, he had been dead for 8 years by the time this performance was conceived and there had been various much shorter and completed performances by then. He simply said that the piece was to be played "As Slow As Possible" - the meaning of the title of the piece. The first installed organ we know about was built in Halberstadt 639 years before the start of this performance, and so the idea that the slowest piece that was POSSIBLE could "only" have been 639 years long at that point grew from this.

You can call it BS if you want, and obviously anybody would understand that gut-level reaction. However, having been to this remarkable building twice now and seen the thing in action, and even taken part in a note-change, it has a real "magic" about it. Clearly the hundreds (some of us reckoned about 600 at the last note-change a few weeks ago) who come to each of the changes also feel this, and they are really quite a cross-section of individuals.

To me, here seems to be something about this that puts you in your place in the universe. Here is a piece that is hopefully and probably going still to be going on hundreds of years after I am dead and gone. Every other performance I can and do witness or attend always fits easily within my lifespan - I'm bigger than it is, and it passes me by, hopefully pleasantly. In this case, I'm the flash in the pan, a temporary blip at the performance, rather than the other way round. It makes me think about my own significance in the universe, what I'm here for - that kind of thing. It seems to me that this is part of what a work of art can be meant to do. Maybe that is too pretentious for some, but thinking about this stuff seems to me part of what is important in being a fully rounded human being.

It's also got a kind of optimism about the future. If this performance is to be finished as planned, then it implies some kind of future that doesn't involve is blowing up ourselves and our planet, becoming intolerant of free expression, or so ruining our planet that nothing like this could function any longer. It means a positive view that the human race has the potential for doing better in the future than it has done in the past.

OK, you can call this all BS, but I'd recommend going to experience it, because the reality in Halberstadt is surprisingly different from how mad it sounds from outside.
20:35 September 7, 2011 by zeddriver

Maybe I did miss the point of as slow as possible. But to me. I would still consider it an exercise in uselessness.

You want to experience the vastness of things around you and realize how small you and I are. Then wait till it gets dark outside and look through a telescope. Look at a nebula and think about the fact that most nebula were created hundreds or thousands of years ago by a star exploding. Look at the Andromeda galaxy. The light that hits your eye when you look at it took 2,000,000 years to get to you just to expire creating an image in your brain.

Or you could go listen to a monotone note that changes pitch every few years.

10:58 September 15, 2011 by texnic
NSR wrote: "It's also got a kind of optimism about the future."

Upon hearing a 10-minute fragment from the piece, I am not really sure it's an optimistic look into the future.
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