Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nerd History: Long Things are Long

I don't know what prompted this, exactly, but I was reading about The Flaming Lips releasing a 24 hour song and recalled a few things that I've had scratching the back of my brain for a while. So, let's enjoy some long musical things, shall we?

Daniel Starr-Tambor has created what may pretty much be the longest musical composition ever, Mandala. Mandala is truly more mathematical than musical, assigning notes to the different planets of our solar system through Pluto. The piece goes on for over 532 septendecillion years (but who's counting), and, according to the composer, is arranged to correspond in part to the birth of JS Bach via the perspective of the Sun as it faces the constellation Libra. There is a significantly shorter YouTube video with some more details, but I love the concept and the execution behind this. It's a very interesting way to look at music and harmonics as well as the universe itself.

Longplayer is a piece that's designed to play for 1000 years. It began in 1999, and is slated to continue through 2999. According to the composers, it "grew out of a conceptual concern with problems of representing and understanding the fluidity and expansiveness of time." Whatever that means, the piece is interesting as it's played mostly by computers, but has human interaction built in as well. If you explore the website, there's obvious concern about the longevity of the project and its ability to be continued long after the rest of us are gone, but in terms of simple technological achievement as well as ingenuity, I personally can't help but be impressed.

Finally, we come to the shortest piece on this post. John Cage is one of those avant-garde composers that, at least when I was a music major in college, gets his share of giggles and snickers even while getting much-deserved respect. If you know of him, it may be due to his, er, "composition" "4'33"," which is four and a half minutes of silence. Yeah. Anyway, Cage has also produced a piece that is currently being performed in Germany called "Organ²/ASLSP(As SLow aS Possible)." The song does what it says on the tin - moves as slow as possible, and is designed to continue for a total of 639 years. The good news is that we're going to get a note change sometime this July - is it kind of strange that I'm hoping for a live stream?

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