The French Disappearance

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the longest song title ever was that of Hoagy Carmichael’s 1945 ditty, “I’m a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin’ Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-On-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues.” I think I may possibly hold the record for the longest title of an orchestra piece: The Disappearance of All Holy Things from this Once So Promising World. Like several of my titles, it’s a line from a poem by the great underrated poet Kenneth Patchen. The piece is being played next Thursday, June 15, in Paris, conducted by Elizabeth Askren on a program of American music:


It’s the work’s first performance since the premieres by the Woodstock Orchestra in 1998. I, alas, won’t be there. But I’m having such a blast making microtonal orchestras with Li’l Miss Scale Oven and Kontakt 2.1 that it would take more than a mere Continental premiere to crowbar me away from my computers.

UPDATE: Art Jarvinen says he has a chamber orchestra piece with a longer title: Mass Death Of A School Of Small Herring (The Natural History Of Deductible Rooms). Personally, I think having a subtitle in parens is cheating.


  1. Jon says

    “Having a blast”? Well, that is a nice change from all the techno-whining! :) Anyhow, glad you’re starting to have all the pieces work together. Please post some demos somewhere so we can hear the progress. And congrats on the French premiere…

  2. says

    And there’s always La Monte Young’s [b]”The Base 9:7:4 Symmetry in Prime Time When Centered above and below The Lowest Term Primes in The Range 288 to 224 with The Addition of 279 and 261 in Which The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped above and Including 288 Consists of The Powers of 2 Multiplied by The Primes within The Ranges of 144 to 128, 72 to 64 and 36 to 32 Which Are Symmetrical to Those Primes in Lowest Terms in The Half of The Symmetric Division Mapped below and Including 224 within The Ranges 126 to 112, 63 to 56 and 31.5 to 28 with The Addition of 119.” [/b]
    KG replies: I said orchestra piece. I know there are longer titles.

  3. Benny Theball says

    There are a few more letters in “The Throne of the Third Heaven of the National Millennium General Assembly” by Jefferson Friedman, recently premiered by the National Symphony Orchestra.

  4. says

    The Guinness book is behind the times. Sufjan Stevens’ song from Illinois, “The Black Hawk War, Or, How To Demolish An Entire Civilization And Still Feel Good About Yourself In The Morning, Or, We Apologize For The Inconvenience But You’re Gonna Have To Leave Now, Or, ‘I Have Fought The Big Knives And Will Continue To Fight Them Until They Are Off Our Lands!'” is longer than the Carmichael, weighing in at 285 characters to the Carmichael song’s 153. (If, that is, you accept such a disjoint title.)

  5. says

    See also here. Keiji Haino also has some typically baffling lengthy song titles (eg ‘That, which while enfolding this now and present perfume, speaks,
    “I will use to the fullest this form bestowed upon me”
    and blurs into the firmament
    -ah, where and in what form will it next be devised’). (I realize this isn’t really the point of the post, but was piqued…)