Monday, January 25, 2010

Cage Match

GOOD Magazine, in their Slow issue, highlight a composition by avant-garde artist and composer John Cage, most well known for his four minute and thirty-three second piece comprised of no notes.

Another piece, Organ²/ASLSP, has an instruction that it should be played as slowly as possible. Some Cage devotees in Halberstadt, Germany have taken that direction to heart and have begun a very slow performance of it, begun in 2000, to be completed in 2639.

This is an interesting example of Indirect Collaboration, where interpretation is paramount to other types of contributions, maybe even including even the original input. Of course the notes being played are important, but those are mostly performed, or at least sustained, by mechanical means.

This calls into question the role of the gatekeeper. This instance could be considered to have two gatekeepers, or maybe none. Cage wrote the composition, but then stepped away. The Germans stepped in, free to meddle, but only in one direction. Is this creative? Collaborative? Certainly it's indirect.


  1. Oh, this is a good one. This is an example of a "Fluxus Score" – instructions written by an artist to be played/performed/interpreted by anyone. Once the score is written, the author generally relinquishes any authority over how it is performed. So, no, this is not collaboration by the strict definition, "to work together or jointly" toward a common goal. But it is an brilliant project that Cage would have loved. One of my favorite interpretations of a Fluxus Score is Sonic Youth performing Piano Piece #13 by George Maciunas:

  2. In the original post on GOOD, there is a comment by "Alicia Capetillo" referencing a similar project, Douglas Gordon's '24 hour Psycho,' a dramatic slow down of Hitchcock's masterpiece. Once again, this is about as collaborative as Dr. Bronner's poetry with Longfellow– the soap bottle reads, "A Psalm of Life, By Longfellow, with small assist by Bronner."