It’s hard to be mindful when your life is deadline-driven. Clients think they need everything yesterday. Assignment instructions always include ASAP: As Soon As Possible. Taking time to smell the flowers can feel like negligence or failure, lack of motivation to accomplish something important.
I’m intrigued by a piece that John Cage composed in the mid-1980s: “ORGAN^2/ASLSP.” (ASLSP = As SLow aS Possible.) Cage never said exactly how slow it was supposed to be played; duration was left to the performer. The first performance lasted 29 minutes. Others have lasted well over an hour.
After Cage’s death in 1992, a group of musicians, musicologists, philosophers, and at least one theologian began discussing just how slow “As SLow aS Possible” could be. The result? A performance on a makeshift organ in the medieval church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt, Germany. At any given time, the organ contains only the keys and pipes required for the notes currently being played, with pieces being added to or removed from the instrument as needed. The proper keys for each cord are held down by rocks or other heavy objects, and an electronic blower maintains air pressure to keep the notes sounding without interruption.
The performance began on September 5, 2001, with several counts of…silence. The first chord began on February 5, 2003. The chord changed in 2004, and the next change was in 2006. Each movement lasts approximately 71 years. The entire performance is expected to finish in the year 2640 (assuming we still maintain the same system for counting/naming years).
What kind of magnificence could we produce if we forgot about time and allowed ourselves 639 years to accomplish something?
For more information about the project, see:
To hear the current chord, visit http://www.aslsp.org/ and click the Play button under Aktueller Ton in the right sidebar. (No rush. It will sound until the next chord plays on September 5, 2020.)