Slowest Musical Piece in the World Changes Chord after Seven Years

Category: Lifestyle/Entertainment


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. avant-garde / əˌvɑntˈgɑrd / (adj) – introducing innovative and experimental ideas or ways

    The avant-garde musician depends on computer technology for his compositions.

  2. theologian / ˌθi əˈloʊ dʒən / (n) – an expert on the study of religious beliefs

    The religious event was a joint effort of church organizations and theologians around the world.

  3. commemorate / kəˈmɛm əˌreɪt / (v) – to celebrate a person or event by doing something

    Our city commemorates its founding every year with a public holiday.

  4. solemn / ˈsɒl əm / (adj) – very serious or formal

    Traditional wedding ceremonies are usually solemn.

  5. medieval / mɛdˈi vəl / (adj) – relating to the Middle Ages

    The old church is a perfect example of medieval architecture.


Read the text below.

A music composition designed to play for over 600 years just changed its chord for the first time in seven years.

The piece, titled As Slow as Possible (ASLSP), was written by avant-garde composer John Cage in 1985. His works include the piece 4’33” (Four Minutes and 33 Seconds), a composition in which performers remain silent the whole time.

ASLSP was originally meant to be played on a piano, but Cage adapted it for the organ two years after he first created the piece. The St. Burchardi Church in Halberstadt, Germany, started playing the composition on a specially made organ back in 2001. Its last chord change occurred in 2013.

The composition is supposed to be played for a total of 639 years until the year 2640. This was decided by a group of German musicians and theologians following Cage’s death in 1992. According to the group, they decided on the duration to commemorate the number of years between 1361, the year when Germany’s first modern organ was made, and the turn of a new millennium in the year 2000.

In September, the St. Burchardi Church organized a solemn ceremony to celebrate the chord change. The ceremony was livestreamed so that interested fans who were unable to go to the medieval church in person could witness it. During the event, two new pipes were added to the organ to change its sound. The piece’s next chord change is expected to take place in February 2022.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Given the chance, would you be interested in visiting the St. Burchardi Church to listen to ASLSP in person? Why or why not?
• Do you think this project is a good way to commemorate the creation of Germany’s first modern organ? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• Do you think an event like the chord change is worth witnessing? Why or why not?
• If you could experience a once-in-a-lifetime event, what would it be? Why?