Sunday, August 10, 2008

Is It Intermission Yet?

I missed this last month when it happened, but there's been a development in the performance of a very long John Cage composition in Germany: They've changed to the sixth chord now. And when I say "sixth chord," I'm not talking about a type of chord; I mean that they've moved on to Chord #6.

Cage was best known for his unusual composition, 4'33", which consists of four minutes and 33 seconds of slience (in three movements). I actually "transcribed" this for saxophone quartet in college, and we played it on one of our fraternity recitals. (It was an interesting experience, as many people never sit in complete silence for that long unless they're taking an exam or something. It really forced us to listen to everything going on around us.)

Cage also wrote another piece entitled As Slow As Possible, an eight-page work which is meant to be played as its title specifies...but the composer never added a tempo marking. While its premiere performance lasted just under half an hour, a church in Halberstadt, Germany decided to take him literally, and they've scheduled the work to go on for 639 years! (As to why this length of time was chosen, it has to do with how old the city's famed organ was when the performance began in 2000.)

Eight years in, the performance struck Chord #6 last month; the local officials have not yet stated how long this chord is to be played (how cool; they're doing it rubato!). The organ's pedals are held down by weights, so the composition is "playing" in the church (not in the main sanctuary, I'd hope!) all the time. It's scheduled to end in early 2640.

And you thought some concerts were too long...

No comments: