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John Cage Organ Project

Change of sound at the John Cage organ art project

One of the slowest pieces of music in the world will have its next change of sound on Monday February 5 (2.30 pm) in the Burchardi Church in Halberstadt. A new pipe will then be played in the 639-year organ piece ORGAN²/ASLSP (“As Slow aS Possible”) by US avant-garde composer John Cage (1912-1992). For the 16th chord change on February 5, 2024, the composition of the organ pipes will be changed according to the score. The previous sound {c’ (16′), des'(16′), dis’, e’, ais’, e”} will become the sound {c’ (16′), des'(16′), d’, dis’, e’, ais’, e”}. This means that the d’ note is added to the organ specification. There had been no change of sound for two years, and now the six pipes to be heard will become a seven-note sound.

The total duration of the performance is 639 years. The German organist Gerd Zacher, to whom this piece is dedicated, premiered it in Metz in just over 29 minutes. The piece consists of eight parts, each of which must be played and each of which can be repeated. Nothing is fixed – apart from the pitch and duration of the sounds. The period between the sounds, i.e. between the sound changes, can be a few months or a few years when projected onto the total duration of 639 years. The score specifies the time at which the sound changes. To this end, the composition of the organ pipes in the Halberstadt organ is adjusted in a solemn ceremony.

The piece of music is played on a specially built and automatically operated organ. It began on September 5, 2001 with a pause, two years later the first three pipes sounded. According to the foundation, there were two sound changes in 2006 and between 2013 and 2020, visitors listened to a five-pipe sound. On February 5, 2022, there was the last, 15th change of sound for the time being.

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