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