John Cage was a jack of several trades. He was a philosopher, composer, music theorist, poet, artist, printmaker, and amateur mycologist. And in 1985 he wrote a musical piece for the organ that, to this day, is the source of the longest lasting musical performance. It’s title was not subtle but simple: As SLow aS Possible.
Just as the title suggests, the music should be played very slowly. In fact, he neglected to detail “exactly how slow the piece should be played”. Many people have attempted to play the piece, but not one will know if it is accurate to Cage’s original perception of the piece. This brings us to the current attempt at playing the piece in the St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany.
This particular attempt began in 1997, when a group of philosophers and musicians discussed the idea of playing the piece on an organ, knowing that they have no time limits when compared to a piano. What if you could play the piece for over 600 years? The only complication would be to create a permanent organ.
Construction was completed in 2001, with the performance beginning on September 5th; Cage’s would-be 89th birthday. While the performance began on that day, the first note began on February 5th… 2003. This note continued until July 5th, 2005, showing just how long the piece would last.
The organ itself
If nothing stops the organ from playing, the piece will continue until September 5th, 2640.*
*In a completely unrelated comment, Stephen Hawking noted that if space colonization does not arise then by the year 2600 people would be standing shoulder to shoulder and the Earth would glow red hot.