As Slow as Possible

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Sankt-Burchardi-Church in Halberstadt, Germany.

Organ2/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible) is a musical piece by John Cage and the subject of one of the longest-lasting musical performances yet undertaken. It was originally written in 1987 for organ and is adapted from the earlier work ASLSP 1985; a typical performance of the piano version lasts 20 to 70 minutes.[1] In 1985, Cage opted to omit the detail of exactly how slowly the piece should be played.

The performance of the organ version at St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany began in 2001 and is scheduled to have a duration of 639 years, ending in 2640.

History[edit]

The piece was commissioned for a piano competition by The Friends of the Maryland Summer Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts as a contemporary requirement. Cage employed an open format mainly to ensure that no two performances would be the same, providing the judges a break from the monotony of most compositions. The score consists of eight pages.

Performances[edit]

On February 5, 2009, Diane Luchese performed Organ2/ASLSP from 8:45 am to 11:41 pm in the Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall at Towson University. This 14-hour-56-minute performance, in strict adherence to the score's temporal proportions, is the longest documented performance of the piece by a single person so far,[2] although a full 24-hour performance of the original piece, ASLSP, was given by Joe Drew during the ARTSaha! festival in 2008. Drew has also given 9- and 12-hour performances of the piece, and as of September 2018, was planning a 48-hour performance.[3]

On September 5, 2012, as part of John Cage Day at the University of Adelaide, Australia, Stephen Whittington performed an 8-hour version of ASLSP on the Elder Hall organ. The eight sections of the work were each allocated an hour, with each section divided into segments of one minute, within which the precise timing of events was left open. In performance, seven sections were performed, with one omitted and one repeated. Organ registrations were determined by chance procedures.[4][5][6][7]

A 12-hour performance took place on September 4–5, 2015, in an all-night concert at Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal, Quebec. The work was performed by the Cathedral organists Patrick Wedd, Adrian Foster, and Alex Ross, while other Cage compositions were performed simultaneously in the church. The performers used a stopwatch, and the timing of each note was precisely calculated and written into the score.

On June 22, 2019, to mark "the shortest day" (Southern Hemisphere Winter solstice), organist Daniel Cooper presented a 12-hour performance of Organ2/ASLSP in Knox Church, Christchurch, New Zealand (first New Zealand Performance). The performance began at 10 am and ended at 10 pm.[8]

Halberstadt performance[edit]

The bellows used for the Halberstadt performance.
The organ used for the Halberstadt performance.

Background[edit]

A 1997 conference of musicians and philosophers discussed the implications of Cage's instruction to play the piece "as slow as possible", given that an organ imposes virtually no time limits. A project emerged to perform the piece for 639 years. A properly maintained pipe organ has no specific lifespan; the duration was chosen to commemorate the first documented permanent organ installation, in 1361 in the Halberstadt Cathedral, 639 years before the proposed start date of 2000.[9]

The instrument[edit]

An organ was built specifically for the performance in 2001 and by 2009 six pipes were installed.[10] It stands in the right transept of the Burchardi Church, with the bellows in the left. Between January and May 2005, it contained only six pipes.[citation needed] Because the instrument sounds constantly, there is a cube of acrylic glass encasing it to reduce the volume.[11]

Performance[edit]

The performance commenced in the St. Burchardi church on September 5, 2001, with a pause lasting until February 5, 2003. The first chord was then played until July 5, 2005. The chord consisting of A above middle C, C above middle C and the F above that (A4–C5–F5, an Fdim chord in first inversion) began sounding on January 5, 2006, and concluded on July 5, 2008. That sonority can be heard on a website devoted to the Halberstadt event.[12][13] Sandbags are situated on the organ pedals to keep the piece playing. On July 5, 2008, the weights holding down the organ pedals were shifted resulting in the 6th chord change.[1] Two more organ pipes were added alongside the four already installed and the tone became more complex at 15:33 local time. The bellows provide a constant supply of air to keep the pipes playing.[14] On July 5, 2012 two more organ pipes were taken out, and two were in the organ. The note changed on September 5, 2020, [15] to be followed by a change on February 5, 2022. The performance is scheduled to end on September 5, 2640.

Sound changes[edit]

The piece started with a 17-month rest on September 5, 2001, which would have been Cage's 89th birthday. The first sound appeared on February 5, 2003. Subsequent dates for note changes include:

John Cage Organ2/ASLSP (639 years, part 1)[16]
Impulse Action Notes Date Chord
length
1 Begin none September 5, 2001
2 Sound G4, B4, G5 February 5, 2003 518 d
3 Sound E3, E4 July 5, 2004 516 d
4 Release G4, B4 July 5, 2005 365 d
5 Sound A4, C5, F5 January 5, 2006 184 d
6 Release E3, E4 May 5, 2006 120 d
7 Sound C4, A4 July 5, 2008 792 d
8 Release C4 November 5, 2008 123 d
9 Sound D4, E5 February 5, 2009 92 d
10 Release E5 July 5, 2010 515 d
11 Release D4, G5 February 5, 2011 215 d
12 Sound C4 (16′), D4 (16′) August 5, 2011 181 d
Release A4
13 Release A4, C5, F5 July 5, 2012 335 d
14 Sound D4, A4, E5 October 5, 2013 457 d
15 Sound G3, E4 September 5, 2020 2,527 d
16 Release G3 February 5, 2022 518 d
17 Sound D4 February 5, 2024 730 d
18 Sound A4 August 5, 2026 912 d
19 Release E4 October 5, 2027 426 d
20 Sound G3 April 5, 2028 183 d
21 Release D4 August 5, 2028 122 d
22 Release A4 March 5, 2030 577 d
23 Release D4, E5 September 5, 2030 184 d
24 Release G3 May 5, 2033 973 d
25 Sound B3 December 5, 2033 214 d
26 Sound F3, D4 August 5, 2034 243 d
27 Release F3, D4 September 5, 2034 31 d
28 Release B3 October 5, 2034 30 d
29 Sound D5 June 5, 2035 243 d
30 Sound A2 (16′) September 5, 2037 823 d
Release D5
31 Sound A4, A5 March 5, 2038 181 d
32 Release A5 July 5, 2038 122 d
33 Release A4 May 5, 2039 304 d
Impulse Action Notes Date Chord
length
34 Sound D4, A4 December 5, 2039 214 d
35 Release D4, A4 April 5, 2040 122 d
36 Sound D3, B3 January 5, 2041 275 d
37 Release D3, B3 March 5, 2042 424 d
38 Release A2 (16′) November 5, 2043 610 d
39 Sound A3, D4 July 5, 2044 243 d
40 Sound E4 March 5, 2045 243 d
Release A4
41 Sound B4, C5, A5 March 5, 2046 365 d
42 Release C4 (16′), B4, C5, A5 October 5, 2047 579 d
43 Sound C3 (16′) February 5, 2049 489 d
44 Sound D4, A4 April 5, 2050 424 d
45 Release A3, D4, E4 February 5, 2051 306 d
46 Release D4, A4 November 5, 2051 273 d
47 Sound E3, B3 May 5, 2053 547 d
48 Release C3 (16′) November 5, 2054 549 d
49 Release E3, B3 July 5, 2056 608 d
50 Sound B4 August 5, 2057 396 d
51 Sound A2 (16′) May 5, 2058 273 d
52 Release A2 (16′) November 5, 2059 549 d
53 Sound G4, C5, D5 April 5, 2060 152 d
54 Release G4, C5, D5 June 5, 2060 61 d
55 Sound E4 November 5, 2060 153 d
Release B4
56 Sound B4, C5, E5, C6 February 5, 2061 92 d
57 Release C5, E5, C6 April 5, 2061 59 d
58 Sound D4 September 5, 2061 153 d
Release E4
59 Sound A3, D4, F4 August 5, 2062 334 d
60 Release A3, F4 February 5, 2064 549 d
61 Sound A3, A4 January 5, 2067 1,065 d
Release D4
62 Release D4 June 5, 2067 151 d
63 Release A2, A4 July 5, 2068 396 d
64 Release D4 (16′) March 5, 2071 973 d
65 Release B4 July 5, 2071 122 d

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b 'World's longest concert' resumes, Steve Rosenberg, BBC News (2008-07-05). Accessed 2008-07-05.
  2. ^ "The Towerlight, Fifteen hours at the organ". Media.www.thetowerlight.com. Archived from the original on 2009-02-10. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  3. ^ "Joe Drew's Bio". Analogarts.org. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  4. ^ "Stephen Whittington: Musical Renewal". RealTime. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  5. ^ "News and Events". J.M. Coetzee Centre for Creative Practice. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  6. ^ "John Cage Day, Wednesday 5th September 2012". Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  7. ^ "John Cage Day Celebrated in Adelaide with Free Concert in Elder Hall". Herald Sun Newspaper. Retrieved 2012-09-27.
  8. ^ "John Cage: Organ2 / ASLSP". Music Canterbury. Retrieved 2019-07-07.
  9. ^ First notes for 639-year composition, BBC News (2003-02-05). Accessed 2008-07-05.
  10. ^ "Sankt Burchardi Church Organ". atlasobscura.com. Retrieved 2018-12-20.
  11. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaABvYVfiuA
  12. ^ "News - John-Cage-Orgelprojekt Halberstadt". www.aslsp.org. Retrieved 2019-12-08.
  13. ^ "the Halberstadt event website". John-cage.halberstadt.de. 2004-11-19. Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  14. ^ "One Thousand Hear Change of Note in World's Longest Concert". Deutsche Welle. Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 2008-07-05. Retrieved 2011-08-30.
  15. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lW3FP_atp1w&feature=youtu.be&t=12660&fbclid=IwAR1Ag92eMiwxfW8wPxf0MkAhYkU7UZ3ul9W5v-EPU2bjgR3CY1OZ67p7Ib0
  16. ^ "Klangwechsel - John-Cage-Orgelprojekt Halberstadt". www.aslsp.org. Retrieved 2019-12-08.

External links[edit]