Listen for 639 Years, Listen for Four Minutes & Thirty-three Seconds

The written score of As SLow aS Possible (ASLSP) is eight pages long.  The play time is 639 years.

It’s currently being performed on an organ at St. Berchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany.  John Cage originally composed the piece for piano in 1985, with a second, longer version for the organ written in 1987.

The performance began on September 5, 2001.  However, it wasn’t until a year and a half later that the first sound was played.  This chord lasted two and a half years.  Over time, the weights holding down the organ pedals have been moved and more pipes added to the instrument.  A machine continually delivers air to the pipes to keep the organ playing.

The performance of ASLSP at St. Berchardi will end on September 5th, 2640.

“I’m interested in making something that I don’t understand,” Cage has said.

Cage also composed a piece called 4’33” (four minutes, thirty-three seconds).  It premiered on August 29, 1952, at a modern piano music recital.  Pianist David Tudor performed the composition, which consisted of three movements.

First, Tudor sat at the piano and closed the lid.  After a few moments he opened the lid; this was the end of the first movement.  The actions were repeated for the second and third movements.  Tudor timed these motions with a stopwatch while turning the pages of the score.  Throughout the entire piece he never played a note.  This is exactly what Cage intended.

“They missed the point,” Cage said of the audience.  “There’s no such thing as silence.  What they thought was silence, because they didn’t know how to listen, was full of accidental sounds.  You could hear the wind stirring outside during the first movement.  During the second, raindrops began pattering the roof, and during the third the people themselves made all kinds of interesting sounds as they talked or walked out.”

Per Cage’s reasoning, there is always music.  One just needs to slow down, and listen.

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5 Responses to “Listen for 639 Years, Listen for Four Minutes & Thirty-three Seconds”

  1. Ian T. Says:

    “Is a truck passing by music? Which is more musical, a truck passing by a factory or a truck passing by a music school? Are the people inside the school musical and the ones outside unmusical? What if the ones inside can’t hear very well, would that change my question?” -John Cage

  2. Rona Says:

    I’m amazed.

  3. Elliot Says:


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