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There was a momentous chord change today. Here’s what that means.

Back in 1987, avant-garde composer John Cage wrote a piece for the organ entitled “As Slow as Possible.” Building on a previous composition written for the piano, this piece is designed to end in 2640. That is not a typo.

There’s a specially-built organ at St. Burchardi, a church in Halberstadt, Germany, with sandbags placed to hold down the pedals. The performance began on September 5, 2001 with–of all things–a rest. That silence lasted until the second “impulse” on February 5, 2005, when the organ was programed to play this chord: G♯4, B4, G♯5. It ran for 518 days until the third impulse on July 4, 2005, when a chord change to E3, E4. That went on for 516 days.

Today at exactly 3pm local time (9 am EST) February 5, 2024), we heard the 17th impulse as we moved from G♯3 (which had been playing for 518 days) to D4. It’ll stay there for the next 730 days before it switches to A4 on August 5, 2026.

There were 500 people on hand for today’s chord change. You need to reserve a ticket years in advance. A front row seat cost €200.

If humanity makes it through the entire performance, “As Slow As Possible” will end after hundreds of impulses on September 4, 2640, ending a gig that will last 639 years. And this is before we get the David Guetta extended dance mix. Interestingly, there’s something in progress that will last even longer. Jim Finer’s Longplayer piece for singing bowls won’t end until 2999.

I’ll post some video as soon as it becomes available. Riveting, I know.

If you don’t have the time to enjoy the entire unabridged piece, let’s try this version.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38529 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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