See First Sound Change in 7 Years in John Cage’s 639-Year-Long Song

Hundreds of people gathered in a German church Saturday to witness the first sound change in seven years for avant-garde composer John Cage’s 639-year-long song.

On September 5th, 2001, a specially built organ installed in Halberstadt, Germany’s St. Burchardi Church began its rendition of Cage’s “Organ/ASLSP (As Slow As Possible),” an eight-page composition written by the composer in the 1980s with the intention of, as the title suggest, being played as slow as possible.

While Cage’s initial performances of the piece would last around an hour, the Halberstadt performance is scheduled to conclude in 2640; at the start of the composition, the piece calls for a brief pause. That pause lasted 18 months, from September 2001 to February 2003.

Nineteen years later, there have been 15 note changes, the last coming on October 5th, 2013. For the past 2,527 days, the St. Burchardi organ had resonated the same note, the piece’s longest-held note so far and longest until at least 2071.

As all the “Organ/ASLSP” are predetermined on the calendar, fans flocked to the St. Burchardi Church Saturday to see the sound change to G3, E4, which occurred with the addition of two more metal pipes atop the organ. The next change is scheduled for February 5th, 2022.

“It is done. Since 3:09 p.m. the new sound has been filling the room in the Burchardikirche. In a solemn ceremony, under the direction of Rainer O. Neugebauer, with the assistance of Kay Lautenbach, the two ‘organists’ Johanna Vargas and Julian Lembke completed the refitting of the organ pipes,” the “Organ/ASLSP” project’s organizers wrote Saturday.

“After the sound change is of course before the sound change. We are already looking forward to it.”

Saturday’s sound change was captured in a four-hour livestream hosted by the John Cage ASLSP project; witness the rare moment beginning at the 3:31:00-mark of the video above.