The NYT is reporting on a piece of music written by John Cage, that is going to take 639 years to be played, in a small town near Berlin. The music is to be played "As slow as possible." I like the fact that the piece begins with a rest, a rest that took 20 months before the first chord was played.
For anyone keeping records, the performance is probably already the world's longest, even though it has barely begun. The organ's bellows began their whoosh on Sept. 5, 2001, on what would have been Cage's 89th birthday. But nothing was heard because the musical arrangement begins with a rest — of 20 months. It was only on Feb. 5, 2003, that the first chord, two G sharps and a B in between, was struck. Notes are sounding or ceasing once or twice a year — sometimes at even longer intervals — always on the fifth day of the month, to honor Cage, who died in 1992.
How long should the piece be? The first organ performance was 29 minutes. A recent recording lasts 71 minutes . . . Michael Praetorius, a composer of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, had written that an organ with the first modern keyboard arrangement had been built in Halberstadt's cathedral in 1361. Subtract that number from the millennial year 2000, and the result is 639.