Your handwriting. The way you walk. Which china pattern you choose. It's all giving you away. Everything you do shows your hand. Everything is a self-portrait. Everything is a diary.
-Chuck Pahlaniuk Diary:A Novel

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"As Slow As Possible"

American avant-garde composer John Cage is perhaps most famous for his notorious work 4'33". Written for any instrument, the score instructs the performer not to play and instead sit in silence for three movements and the duration of the piece. The idea being that whatever ambient noise occurs in the audience or performance space actually makes up the music. While a conceptual masterpiece and probably Cage's most important work, it is not his most ambitious.

Cage's piece Organ2/ASLSP (the second part of the title meaning "As Slow As Possible") lasts a staggering 639 years. You heard me correctly, 639 years! And astonishingly the piece is currently being performed in Halberstat, Germany. Supposedly, thousands of folks show up for the note changes that occur every month or so. From the Greenleaf Music Blog:

When checking out the score consider this: the smallest unit is one month. Each determined tone change takes place on the 5th day of the relevant month. ***Recommendation: quarter-note staccato: length 2 months, quarter-note without staccato: length 4 months.***

Is that fascinating or what? Kudos to anyone with the artistic commitment to put on this performance. I would love to see one of the note changes some day.


KHM said...

pardon my saying so but I'm sure others are thinking this: Organs2/ASlAP strikes me as completely ridiculous. Avant garde? No. Pretentious? Of virtually no value? yes. You'd like to hear the note change? C'mon; Put that platter on 78rpm and cut to the chase!

Lyman said...

Well I dig it! And I'm going to book a ticket to Germany right now just out of spite!

KHM said...

well, go right ahead! I just hope you get there in the right year. It would totally blow to just sit and hear the same note for a month. Kinda like, oh, I dunno, an alarm clock? But I know you; it would be some magical opportunity... ;-)

This is the thing: if no living human on earth is going to hear the whole thing, how can it be appreciated? What is its value beyond the idea of it, which is rather Isaac Asimov, in my opinion? Which, apparently, can be easily dismissed...

I do love 4'33", though. That one packs a very heavy message and actually presents the listener/musician with an aural experience. I shoulda said that.

love you!

kbmulder said...

I think we performed 4 min. 33 sec. in my 20th Century Music class. We had this whole recital, including a piece for hand clapping. The class was fun, but I still don't really get the music.

Special K said...

wait - I don't get it - it's on the organ? Does someone hold the key down for a month?

Lyman said...

depends on what the score denotes, but I don't think someone is sitting there for months at a time holding a note down, probably just hitting it and keep the sustain pedal pressed or something, that's just my guess