Tuesday, February 10, 2009

As Slow As Possible

There are three kinds of people in this world: those who love avant-garde music, those who believe, as John Lennon himself put it, that avant-garde is French for bullshit and then there are those who can take it in small doses. You will be pleased to know that I belong in in all the three categories.

The part of me that belongs to the first category thinks John Cage's "As slow as possible" is genius. If you haven't heard of it (and can't guess what the piece is about from its title), here's a little background:
"...is a musical piece composed by John Cage and is the subject of the slowest and longest-lasting musical performance yet undertaken."

Apparently, John Cage forgot to indicate just how slow it had to be played, which led to a discussion between musicians and philosophers (thankfully no lawyers were involved) who settled on a number: 639 years.

But why is the work meant to be played over 639 years?
"It was originally a 20-minute piece for piano, but a group of musicians and philosophers decided to take the title literally and work out how long the longest possible piece of music could last. They settled on 639 years because the Halberstadt organ was 639 years old in the year 2000."

Today we have news (link to BBC, embedded video, creepy organ music) coming in about the "newest note" having been struck in St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt. The newest note!

I wish the media took a cue from this event and released the news one letter at a time, over 639 years. Think about it while you also consider the longevity of newspapers, Internet and the planet itself.

BTW, today's note is only the seventh note in the piece. When the music is over in 2640, I hope they don't turn off the lights.

Instead, they should ask for an encore.

Ever been inside an empty cathedral with the organ playing? I have, once. Shook me up. And I don't mean just physically or aurally.


Space Bar said...

lovely! (i'm thinking of an audience for the piece but in the interests of slowness i'll tell you a decade from now.)

km said...

space bar: ha ha, but remember that the organizers of the concert will start selling tickets to the show only 150 years from now. (Yes, we can do this forever. John Cage rocks.)