The following story from Agence France Presse has been popping up in newspapers, on television and radio, and everywhere on the internet. It seems to have (ahem) struck a responsive chord. In the unlikely event that you have missed it, Rifftides brings it to you as a public service.
World’s Longest Concert Sounds Second Chord
A new chord has sounded in the world’s slowest and longest concert, which will take 639 years to perform.
An abandoned church in eastern Germany is the venue for the 639-year-long performance of a piece of music by American experimental composer John Cage.
The performance of “organ2/ASLSP” (or “As SLow aS Possible”) began in the Buchardi church in Halberstadt on September 5, 2001, and is scheduled to last until 2639.
The first year-and-a-half of the performance was total silence, with the first chord, G-sharp, B and G-sharp, not sounding until February 2, 2003.
Two additional Es, an octave apart, were sounded in July 2004 and are scheduled to be released later this year on May 5.
Today, the first chord has progressed to a second, comprising A, C and F-sharp, and is to be held down over the next few years by weights on an organ being built especially for the project.
New pipes are being added to the organ in time for when new notes are scheduled to sound.
Cage originally conceived the piece in 1985 as a 20-minute work for piano, subsequently transcribing it for organ in 1987.
But organisers of the John Cage Organ Project decided to take the composer at his word and stretch out the performance for 639 years, using Cage’s transcription for organ.
The enormous running time was chosen to commemorate the creation of Halberstadt’s historic Blockwerk organ in 1361, 639 years before the current project started.
The organ, built by Nikolaus Faber for Halberstadt’s cathedral, was the first ever to be used for liturgical purposes, ringing in a new era in which the organ has played a central role in church music ever since.
Cage was a pupil of one of the 20th century’s most influential composers, Arnold Schoenberg.
Cage’s avant-garde oeuvre includes works such as the notorious “4’33”, a piece for orchestra comprising four minutes and 33 seconds of total silence, all meticulously notated.
Cage died in New York in 1992.
The organisers of the John Cage Organ Project say the record-breaking performance in Halberstadt also has a philosophical background, to “rediscover calm and slowness in today’s fast-changing world.” (AFP)
In recent years, Shirley Horn, RIP, was the leading exponent of that philosophy, although she never took quite that long between chords.