A conceptual bird in a perspex cage

Wednesday 18 August 2010

Jodru at ANABlog has visited that 639-year performance of John Cage’s Organ2/ASLSP in Halberstadt so you don’t have to.

A few years ago I wrote about this slow-motion stunt, saying that it reinforced

… Cage’s undeserved reputation as a conceptual artist whose ideas are more interesting than his music. More than any composer Cage wrote music to be heard without recourse to external ideas, whether cultural, literary, or theoretical. His aim was always to make you hear, not make you think. Unlike many artists, he’d trust you to think for yourself.

An 600 year piece, which in practice cannot be heard, is at odds with everything Cage wrote. Worse still, it devalues the true beauty and importance to be found in Cage’s music, instead promoting Cage-the-personality as some blue-sky empty vessel that can hold any wacky idea that happens along.

Jodru walks you through the laborious process of actually getting to see the organ in action, and offers his verdict on whether it’s all worth the effort. Two telling points: first, that the church is kept locked to spare attendants from having to be on-site listening to the music all day. Second:

The organ is quite small, but it is encased in acrylic to dampen the sound.

To quote a noted antipodean oenologist, “This is not a wine for drinking; this is a wine for laying down and avoiding.”