Is there anybody not paying tribute to John Cage this year, the centennial of his birth? My own favorite tribute is a performance that began more than a decade ago “in a crumbling medieval church” in Halberstadt, an eastern German city that has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “forlorn.”
The piece, called “ASLSP (As Slow As Possible),” was originally written for piano and is 20 minutes long. In the Halberstadt adaptation the music is not forlorn so much as long-lived. “Each movement lasts 71 years,” The Journal reported. “The shortest notes last six or seven months, the longest about 35 years. There’s an intermission in 2319.” The concert organizers decided to take the title literally, according to the BBC.
As I noted back in 2003, if you missed the opening, you didn’t miss much because the music began with a rest (or silence) that lasted for the first 17 months. Here’s the chord that was being played on May 5, 2009: