Posted by David
on Jul 17, 2003 in Upside-down Hippo
| 0 comments
This is a story from February 28th of this year, but just I discovered it yesterday:
World’s longest concert gets under way in Germany HALBERSTADT, Germany (AP) – First there was silence – 1½ years of it.
But that was just a brief lead-in for Friday’s playing of the opening notes in what’s planned as the world’s longest concert, a 639-year piece being performed in a former church in east Germany. With 72 years already mapped out, the concert inspired by the American avant-garde composer John Cage challenges the creativity of future generations to keep the music playing.
The three notes being played Friday – G sharp, B, and G sharp – are the debut for an organ built for Cage’s music, with keys being held down by weights and with organ pipes to be added over the years for new notes.
As the idea took shape in 2000, backers counted back to the 1361 inauguration of a famous organ in the Halberstadt cathedral – 639 years earlier.
They then stretched Cage’s piece from a 20-minute piano concert to last just as long.
As far as I can tell (the reporter appears not to know much at all about music), the one-and-a-half years of silence were the rests that preceded the pickup notes – so even though the first notes were played in February, the piece technically “began” back on September 5th, 2001 (John Cage’s 88th birthday). The downbeat of the first full measure of music will occur on July 2004.
There’s an official project web site, but it’s only in German.
I was going to say silly and sarcastic things about this (after all, I got this guest blog invitation for being silly about conceptual art), but the more I think about it, the cooler it sounds. This is what really hooked me:
Those unable to attend Friday’s gala have plenty of time to hear the opening E major chord, which will play continuously through August 2005. The next notes will be added in July 2004.
Just imagine being there: you’re in this church and that E major chord is playing all around you – actually seeming to play through you, the way organ music always does. This sound goes on and on and on. And on. You could go away for months and when you came back, the sound would still be there. This piece of music has been turned into a nearly physical piece of public art that will continue through a dozen lifetimes. It will last longer than a lot of sculpture does. It’s really pretty mindboggling.
I’m not sure I’d travel to Germany just to visit this piece of music (it’s definitely become something you visit, not something you hear), but I’d probably go out of my way to visit if I were over there anyway. But even just knowing that it exists is pretty awesome – and that’s “awesome” in the original sense of “evoking awe”, not the Valley-speak sense of “like, totally rad, y’know!”
So there’s no silly sarcasm about Organ²/ASLSP (well, the name sucks – they could have done better than that). I like it and I’m glad that people have done it. If that makes me some sort of black-turtleneck-wearing, conceptual-art-loving, intellectually pretentious, PoMo homo, then I guess I’ll have to live with that. To thine own self be true.