Chord Change Occurs in 639-Year Piece of Music

John Cage's 'ORGAN/ASLSP' is slated to end in 2640
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 5, 2020 4:00 PM CDT
Chord Change Occurs in 639-Year Piece of Music
People, wearing face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they line up to attend a 'chord change' of the organ of the John Cage organ project at the partially ruined Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Hundreds of fans attended a special kind of musical happening Saturday at a church in Germany: a chord change in an organ piece that is supposed to last for an entirety of 639 years, the AP reports. The performance of the "ORGAN/ASLSP," or As Slow As Possible, composition began in September 2001 at the St. Burchardi Church in the eastern town of Halberstadt and is supposed to end in 2640—if all goes well. The music piece by the American composer John Cage is played on a special organ inside the medieval church. The last sound has been the same one for the last six years and 11 months, and therefore the chord change Saturday was a big event among fans of the John Cage Organ Project.

A chord change means that the sound of the organ pipes changes either because new sounds are added or existing sounds end. On Saturday, two new organ pipes were added. Organizers say the performance is "one of the slowest realizations of an organ musical piece." A compressor in the basement creates energy to blow air into the organ to create a continuous sound. When a chord change happens, it's done manually. On Saturday, soprano singer Johanna Vargas and organist Julian Lembke changed the chord. The new sound reminded some listeners of the metallic buzz inside a big ships's engine room. The next chord change is planned for Feb. 5, 2022, the German news agency dpa reported.

(More music stories.)

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