Slowest Concert Hits Sixth Note

The pace of life seems to be getting ever faster, and even music is bombarding us with more production, more loudness, more beats than ever before. However, there is one musical performance currently underway that aims to buck this trend – this concert began in 2000, and has recently moved on to its sixth note…

When Adagio Just Isn’t Slow Enough

The church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt, Germany is the venue for this monumental musical event, a composition by John Cage that is due to last 639 years. The piece began on September 5th, 2000, so there is still plenty of time to catch the rest – unlike most gigs, latecomers are always welcome here.

Cage designed the music to be played ‘as slow as possible’, which may be defined as “as long as the life of an organ lasts remains and also as long as peace and creativity in the following generations exist”.

Generational Music For The Millennium

Cage’s piece was originally composed for piano in 1985, but he modified it for organ as this instrument is more adaptable to long-term note sustains. As I mentioned in a previous post, the art of organ building is very strong in Germany, with Gottfried Silbermann being perhaps the most respected practitioner of this art.
Slowest Concert in Halberstadt
In fact, the first organ featuring a modern keyboard layout was built in Halberstadt in 1361 (although not by Silbermann, who lived from 1683-1753). This claviature of 12 notes is the same as found on keyboards today, so Halberstadt could be seen as the birthplace of this remarkable piece of music technology.

If you subtract the year of 1361 from the millennium year, you are left with 639 years, which is the running time of this concert (presuming the organ lasts that long and that peace and creativity in the following generations continues to exist…).


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