Longest... Concert... Ever. Confirmed.

By Jarrett Bellini

While my ear isn’t exactly calibrated to that of Yo Yo Ma, it also isn’t set to that of the guy who decided to sign the boys from Hanson to a major record deal. Basically, I know when something sounds right. And, though I haven’t actually heard John Cage’s latest posthumous work, I can tell you that it doesn’t sound right.

As music, it doesn’t even count as a good idea. The Grateful Dead’s Wall of Sound was a good idea. Cage’s creation should be filed underweird for the sake of weird. Which is also cool. Just as much as I appreciate creativity in the arts, I can also appreciate pure lunacy. I was, after all, a frat guy in college, and the phrase we should light this thing on fire seemed to fit most occasions.

So, I’ll let you be the judge. Cage’s final ongoing musical project is the world’s longest (and slowest) live concert – clocking in at 639 years. Notice I used the word musical… as in like music. I realize that music is generally defined as organized sound and silence, which this project most certainly and cartoonishly is, but let’s try and be civilized about the whole thing. We're not talking about real music. This is more like a four-in-the-morning bad idea from an eighteen-year-old pothead.

“Dude. I've got it.”

Cage, an accomplished American avant-garde composer, didn’t live long enough to hear the first striking chord of his opus, Organ2/ASLSP, in February 2003. He died in 1992. However, in his honor, the actual project began (by virtue of the John Cage Organ Foundation) on September 5, 2001 on what would have been his 89th birthday. It all started… with a year and a half of silence. How creative.

Of course, this whole concept (commencing with a prolonged absence of sound) came from the same guy who, in 1952, wrote the controversial 4’33 composition. Confused? That would be four minutes and thirty-three seconds of pure silence… notated on sheet. Sheet is pretty what I was thinking. As in, can you believe this sheet?

His primary objective, having a man sit at a piano doing nothing, was for the audience to hear the everyday music all around them… birds chirping, clocks ticking, wind blowing. If I had been around and paid for this experience, one would also have heard the sound of me leaving and the door slamming.

I guess I’m not really concealing my opinion that 4’33 received a bit of undue praise. It’s like congratulating a homeless guy for just sitting under a tree all day. In both cases, nothing happened. Don’t get me wrong. Silence is wonderful. Perhaps it's even art. But it’s certainly not music. Remember... it's organized sound and silence. Had the pianist so much as farted, we might, then, have an excuse to call Rolling Stone.

On January 5, 2006, the John Cage Organ Project struck its second chord, a combination of A, C, and F-sharp that will be held down for the next few years by weights. This is known, among music circles, as the Ferris Bueller Odometer Technique. It was only attempted once on a Ferrari in a fictional movie, and it didn’t work. Godspeed!

The site of this concert is the old, abandoned Buchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany. It’s truly an amazing structure, but, like I said, it’s in Germany. So, if you live in the United States, it's hardly a weekend roadtrip. The good news, however, is that if you ever go to Germany (and I really do mean ever) you're more than welcome to pop your head in and say hello.

Now, I fear that I may have painted John Cage as some sort of nutcase. He wasn't. He was a genius and an eccentric. And, while I do have some minor concerns with more than one of his “music” concepts, I wouldn’t be giving him his proper due if I didn’t admit that, all things considered, he was definitely a visionary. For instance, in 1937 he predicted the use of electrical instruments. Of course, this ultimately lead to Starship’s recording of We Built this City. Mr. Cage owes us all an apology.

But the man existed, he made people think, and he’s left us with something for the next six hundred years. I, for one, would love to see it (and hear it) in person. What a thrill it must be to bask in the presence of such lunacy. What awe it must inspire to stand before a masterfully constructed organ that will continue to sound for centuries to come.

Really, we should light that thing on fire.

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