The best news in many days came from Germany this morning, specifically from the church of St. Burchardi in Halberstadt. There, a performance of an organ composition by the irrepressibly inventive musician John Cage (1912-1992) has been underway since 2001. In keeping with Cage’s indications, the organist Julian Lemke added two new pipes to the organ, that is, changed the chord. Cage followers gathered to hear the new sound. It was the first change for six years.
The piece, called Organ/ASLAP, that is, organ as slow as possible, takes 639 years to perform. The performance at St. Burchardi is supposed to end in 2640, if all goes well. And it does make you wonder. It’s slower than seasons, slower than anyone’s life, than generations or even species…not to mention organs or organists. Among many other things, it’s a bit of reassurance that even in these days of global gloom, there is at least one sound of persistent joy.