"As Slow as Possible"

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At 3:33pm local time (UTC+1) today, an organ in Halberstadt Germany changed from one chord to another. The musical piece being played, John Cage's "As Slow as Possible," began nearly seven years ago and will continue for the next six centuries. Dale McGowan explained this unusual musical performance to his young daughter Delaney this way:

"It started playing seven years ago on September 5th, 2001. But the music starts with a rest -- a silence in music -- so the first thing you heard was nothing! For twenty months!"

"Haha! Weird!"

"And right in the middle of that silence -- you were born."

"Awesome," she whispered.

She was right. Somehow, juxtaposing her birth and that silence was awesome. Even better: The bellows sprung to life on that day in September, and pumped away for twenty months as the only sound in the church. Once again, music without music.

"Then one day in the middle of the winter, when you were one and a half, the first notes started to play. Hundreds of people gathered in the little church to hear the notes start. Most of the time, though, the notes are playing with no one there. Little weights hold down the keys. Then every two years or so, it's time for the notes to change again, and people come from around the world to hear it."

"And it's still playing right now?"

"Yep, it's playing right now. And here's the thing: It will be playing on the moment you graduate from high school and when you graduate from college. It will be playing when you get your first job, when you get married, and when your kids are born.

"The music that started the year you were born will still be playing at the end of your life. It will be playing when your grandchildren are born and when they die, and their grandchildren, and their grandchildren, and on and on, for 639 years."

McGowan mentions a NYT piece that's useful in a factual way, but isn't nearly as inspirational as his post. Thanks to his thought-provoking post, I now want to make two musical pilgrimages to Germany: the first to experience Wagner's entire Ring Cycle at the Bayreuth Festival, and the second to visit Halberstadt for a chord change in Cage's "As Slow as Possible."

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on July 5, 2008 9:33 AM.

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