Slow is Beautiful


John Cage wrote a piece of music called “As Slow as Possible” in 1985. He didn’t give instructions about how long it should ask but envisaged it lasting 30 minutes. It is being played on a church organ in Halberstadt, Germany – and the piece is lasting 639 years! The concert began in 2001 and will end in 2640. The note changed last week and the next change is on July 5th 2010. Several people have made noted in their diary to remind themselves to be there for this notable change.

This is a fascinating project. It depends on orchestrating the different generations. In a world shaped by Jeremy Clarkson, speed and power – at a time when the desire to earn a fast buck has undermined our financial systems like never before – the concert invites us to entertain the idea that “slow is beautiful”. We’re used to thinking about colour setting the tone for a room – but here a note is setting the tone for 18 months at a time. What if it’s a discord? What if it’s spooky? What will that do to the room? Here’s the score and today’s sound!

I’m coming to the end of a chapter of my life before beginning something new. After 15 years in one place means a change of note, or a change of key is long overdue. But it makes me think – maybe I’ve added one note, or two notes to the symphony lived by our parish community. There has been the odd discord and the occasional harmonising, and in the long course of history that recognises us as a grain of sand, one note is perhaps enough to raise the tone.

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