What Can You Do With This? (As Slow As Possible)

score cage

Deutsche Welle, July 5th, 2008
One Thousand Hear Change of Note in World’s Longest Concert

The next musical change in John Cage’s slow masterpiece will happen in November. More than 1,000 music-lovers showed up on Saturday, July 5, in a German town to hear a change of note in the longest-running and slowest piece of music ever composed. Eccentric US composer John Cage (1912-1992) planned his composition to last 639 years, meaning more than a dozen generations of musicians will be needed to play it on an automatic, as-yet unfinished organ at Halberstadt, Germany.

(The above is slightly incorrect — the 639 year concert was only planned after John Cage’s death. The 639 years were to commemerate the 639 year anniversary of the first organ with a modern keyboard arrangement.)

Entitled ORGAN2/ASLSP, it began in 2001 and has so far reached its sixth note. The second part of the name means “as slow as possible.”

The first performance took 29 minutes. The longest performance by a single person has been 14 hours and 56 minutes.

Since some notes will not be needed for decades, pipes need only be added when donations suffice.

Organizers in Halberstadt rejected questions about what it all means.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” one of them said. “It’s just there.”

unfinished organ

The current sound being played

John Cage’s most famous piece is likely his 4’33”, where “the score instructs the performer not to play the instrument during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements”.

4 Responses

  1. Stuff this makes me think of: frequency spectrum analysis, sine waves, harmonics, how to calculate the length of the next pipe they’ll need, how much time a quarter note takes, how many generations of people will be involved if this project reaches the end of the performance.

    I don’t know if this leads to a single clear question, but if you can be (a little bit) prepared for any of the above, you could just see which direction the students take it and run with it.

  2. So what did you have in mind here?

  3. […] What Can You Do With This? (As Slow As Possible) […]

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