Notes Finally Change in Organ Piece That's Played for 22 Years

Performance of John Cage's Organ2/ASLSP isn't slated to end until 2640
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2024 12:20 PM CST
Notes Finally Change in Organ Piece That's Played for 22 Years
A photo of the organ; pipes will be added and removed as needed to make the necessary notes.   (Wikimedia Commons/Holbein66)

The late American avant-garde composer John Cage asked that his piece Organ2/ASLSP be played as its name instructs: That latter part is a nod to the phrase "as slowly and softly as possible," reports the Conversation. Cage, who died in 1992, never dictated just how slowly he meant, but he may not have pictured this slowly. More than 22 years after it began, a German performance of the piece has only reached its 16th chord progression, a milestone notched on Monday. The entire piece will take 639 years to play, a period the John Cage Organ Foundation in Halberstadt selected because it represents the time that elapsed between the construction of the world's first 12-tone Gothic organ in that city and the year 2000.

The piece began on Sept. 5, 2001, with "the sound of air whooshing through the bellows" for the first 17 months, per NPR—the piece begins with a pause—and on Monday came the latest change, with small sandbags keeping the keys depressed (no humans are needed at the keys all those 639 years). Classical Music has the specifics: A D note was added to the chord that had been playing, which was made up of a C, D-flat, D-sharp, E, A-sharp, and E.

The BBC reports it had been exactly two years since the last change was made. The new notes will persist for two years, with the next change slated for Aug. 5, 2026 (see the full schedule for the first of the piece's eight movements, which concludes in 2072, here). The performance is taking place in an unused 11th-century convent that was donated for the purpose; barring a cataclysmic interruption, it's set to finish in the year 2640. (Read about a note change that occurred in 2020.)

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