John Cage’s “As Slow as Possible” will be played in a former church in Germany for a very, very long time.
Ursula Sautter | May 2009 issue
“One need not fear about the future of music,” American experimental composer John Cage once wrote. Well, the future of Cage’s own music seems assured, since—if all goes according to plan—the avant-garde artist’s composition Organ2/ASLSP (“As Slow as Possible”) will be playing in a former church in the central German town of Halberstadt for, oh, the next 631 years.
Interpreting the piece’s title literally, a group of Cage aficionados and church organ experts has been performing the piece since September of 2001. Every now and then, notes are altered by adding or removing pipes to or from the specially designed, electrically powered wooden organ. But usually there’s no change in the monotonous, eerie murmuring the instrument produces. “It’s a crazy idea,” admits Rainer Neugebauer, the current head of the project, “but one with many facets.” Some visitors wonder how long the organ will keep playing, he says, but most are interested “in the philosophical question of what time is and what role slowness plays in a day and age when it’s usually only speed that matters.”
To answer that philosophical question, get yourself to Halberstadt. But hurry! Performances only last until the year 2640.