John Cage

Weedon Weekly: 27th August 2017

John Cage

AN UNUSUAL ORGAN PIECE

Concert promoters generally, and organ concert promoters especially, are looking for ways to boost audience numbers. One such boost has come from an unlikely source - the world's slowest organ piece, which plays to healthy audiences, in particular when a note changes every few years!

Composed by the famously avant-grade composer John Cage in 1985, "As SLow aS Possible" (affectionately known also as ASLSP) was intended for v-e-r-y   s-l-o-w performance by a pianist.  But the notes die away on a piano, so when you're holding each key down for several minutes at a time the continuity is rather lost. Accordingly, John Cage rewrote it for organ, where the notes go on sounding just as long as you care to press them. Most organists steam through the work in about 20 minutes, as you'll see here. But not all....

ASLSP was quite a departure from John Cage's most...

The sound of - silence?

Shoosh!

Here’s a thought to ponder. What is it that makes a piece of music truly thrilling? One might answer the beautiful melody line, the sumptuous harmonies, a fast and furious tempo, huge crescendos and crashing fortissimo at climaxes or even whispered pianissimo passages. But a teacher of mine once surprised me by saying that, in his opinion. it was none of those. What marked a performance out as something special was the use of silence.

When I gave him a bit of a straight look, he asked me if I ever baked a cake. Yes, I did. So what, he enquired, made the difference between a good and a bad cake? I decided it was whether it had risen or not. A fat spongy cake, light with air, was infinitely preferable to a thin, heavy lump. Precisely, he said. And silence gives the lift to a piece of music, just...

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