A 639-year-long John Cage organ piece just changed chord, for the first time in two years
6 February 2024, 11:02
Watch a moment of music history – on Monday a single chord changed in an iconic piece of 20th-century music which ends in the year 2640.
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Monday 5 February 2024 is a day etched into the diaries of many 20th-century music enthusiasts. An epic, centuries-long performance of one of the most iconic pieces of experimental music has a note change, two years in the making.
Organ2/ASLSP, ‘As Slow as Possible’ is a keyboard work written by American avant-garde composer John Cage in the mid-1980s. The score consists of eight pages of music, to be played on the piano or organ, as the name suggests, very slowly.
When performing the piece, musicians observe the composer’s instruction. The eight pages of music are taken very slowly, and it often takes over an hour to complete the work. In 2009, organist Diane Luchese gave a rendition that lasted for 14 hours and 56 minutes. A couple years ago in 2022, Dr. Christopher Anderson from Southern Methodist University gave a 16-hour performance of the monumental work.
But all is eclipsed by a performance on a custom-built organ at St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany. The Halberstadt performance began in 2001 with a scheduled duration of 639 years, ending in the year 2640.
On Saturday 5 September 2020, a media storm was created in Halberstadt, when a chord which had been held for 2,527 days was changed. February 2022 saw another chord change.
Then on Monday, 5 February 2024, organ pipes were changed once again. The chord that had been sustained for two years (C, D-flat, D-sharp, E, A-sharp and E) became (C, D-flat, D, D-sharp, E, A-sharp and E), with a D note added.
Visitors, Cage enthusiasts, and world media gathered at the church for the occasion. Just after 3pm local time, Rainer O. Neugebauer, who is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the John Cage Organ Foundation Halberstadt, inserted the necessary pipe, to create the sound that will ring out for the next 18 months.
What the moment in the video below.
John Cage: As slow as possible, Klangwechsel in der Burchardi-Kirche heutePosted by Andreas Grosch on Monday, February 5, 2024
After this week’s event, the next change is scheduled for 5 August 2026, when an A note will be added to the chord.
Who was John Cage?
One of the most iconic composers of the 20th century, John Cage was born in 1912. As a composer and performer, he was at the forefront of experimental and avant-garde music.
Cage composed with electronics, tape loops and, most famously in his work 4’33”, complete silence. His works changed the way art and music was perceived. His compositions spanned a huge variety of media, theoretical ideas with new, quirky ways of playing conventional instruments.
“I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas,” he once said, adding, “I’m frightened of the old ones.”