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The 639-Year Concert

You read that right - a concert in Germany is set to last 639 years. The piece titled Organ2/ASLSP (as slow as possible) was written by composer John Cage in 1985, seven years before his death. In September 5, 2001 the John Cage Organ Foundation launched the 639-year project from a small church in Halberstadt. But instead of playing the piece at normal speed, each note lasts months, sometimes years. This is accomplished through the use of a very special organ. The instrument creates a constant stream of air, which maintains the same note as different pipes are added and removed when needed. In short, the organ never stops playing. 

The first sonic change in seven years was made a few months ago. If you’re wondering whether this was a big deal, it was. The previous note had been playing nonstop since 2013. Hundreds of spectators watched (from a social distance) as G sharp and E pipes were added to the organ in preparation for the note change.

But why play a piece of music really slowly for over six centuries? People have argued that the project comments on the hectic patterns of modern life - a reminder that we can (and perhaps should) slow down. Check out this video of a note change that occurred in 2013 (the action starts at about 2:35 minutes). If you feel particularly moved by the project, you can sponsor a note - the church is adorned with fancy plaques immortalizing previous donors’ contributions.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the only piece of music being played over a dramatically long period of time. The Longplayer project has been live streaming a piece of music since 1999. The piece is played by computers and set to last 1,000 years. That’s a long time to wait for a standing O.

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Image by Cinescope Creative



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