An organ playing the longest and slowest piece of music in the world has changed chord for the first time in two years.
In a remarkable musical event, an organ at the Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany, has recently changed chord in its ongoing rendition of John Cage’s piece, “As Slow as Possible.” This piece, known for being the longest and slowest in the world, began in 2001 and is set to conclude in 2640, marking a total duration of 639 years.
The composition, a brainchild of the legendary avant-garde musician John Cage, has experienced only 16 chord changes since its inception. Interestingly, the piece commenced with an 18-month silence, and the first audible notes emerged in 2003.
The recent chord change, a rare and much-anticipated event, occurred on February 5, exactly two years after the previous change. This unique musical experience has garnered significant attention, with enthusiasts booking tickets years in advance to witness the chord transitions in person.
The organ, specially constructed for this performance, employs an electronic wind machine and sandbags pressing down the keys to sustain the drone-like sound.
The score of “As Slow as Possible” spans eight pages and can be played on either a piano or an organ. While Cage intended the piece to be performed as slowly as possible, he did not define a specific tempo, leaving much to interpretation.
The current performance, set to continue for centuries, starkly contrasts with its 1987 premiere, which lasted less than half an hour. Subsequent renditions have varied in length, with a notable 14-hour performance by organist Diane Luchese in 2009.
This extraordinary musical endeavour, born from a posthumous meeting of musicians and philosophers in honour of Cage, continues to captivate and intrigue, promising a chord change next expected on August 5, 2026. As the organ plays on, “As Slow as Possible” stands as a testament to the enduring and evolving nature of musical expression.
This is the ultimate in “slow music.”