John Cage Composition To End In 2639

Ken AshfordPopular CultureLeave a Comment

Composer John Cage, who died in 1992, is perhaps best known for his musical piece 4’33":

It consists of the pianist going to the piano, and not hitting any keys for four minutes and thirty-three seconds.  (He uses a stopwatch to time this.)  In other words, the entire piece consists of silences — silences of different lengths, they say.

(Click here to see and hear a performance of 4’33" as performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra).

[NOTE:  4’33"is a piece that’s hard to get out of your head.  As I lay in bed late last night trying to get some sleep, I swear I heard this being performed]

But John Cage also composed a piece called "ASLAP", which is short for "as slow as possible".  It was originally scored for piano, but Cage reworked the piece for organ (renaming it "organ2/ASLAP").  The point of the piece, Cage said before he died, was that it should be played as slowly as possible.

In 1997, a group of musicians in Germany got together and formed The John Cage Organ Project.  They decided they would perform "organ2/ASLAP" as Cage intended — i.e., it would be played "as slow as possible".

The concert began on September 5, 2001 in an abandoned Buchardi church in Halberstadt, eastern Germany.  A year and a half later, the first chord of the piece was played on an organ specially built for the Project.

Today at 5:00 pm GMT, the second chord (comprising A, C and F-sharp) is being played.  Weights will hold the organ keys down until it is time to play the next chord, sometime in late 2007.  Read more.