Spronck V. Testing the Parameters of Music: The Halberstadt Performance of John Cage’s ORGAN2/ASLSP as Experimental System

A. N. Lipov


Is being performed at Halberstadt, Germany, by ORGAN2/ASL SP (1987), an organ piece by the American avant-garde composer, John Milton Cage (1912–1992), music theorist and pioneer in aleatorics, electronic music and the non-standard use of musical instruments, whom music critics have called one of the most influential American composers of the 20th, known for his radical attempts to subvert listeners’ conventional ideas of what music is and should be. With this performance, with a running time of 639 years and being the world’s longest performance of a piece of music that will reach its finale at 2640, with a break at 2319, the initiators of the ORGAN2/ASLSP organ piece at Halberstadt seek to explore in practice the direction of the musical movement set by the composer — “as slowly as possible” that Cage laid out for the work. ORGAN2/ASLSP invites listeners to reconsider what we mean by music: is something still music if the length of performance exceeds the length of human life? In essence, Organ2/ASLSP contains the idea of a paradigm shift stemming from the transformation of musical technology, presented by the composer as a transition from linear to complex thinking, from determinism to indeterminism, to the creation, instead of static art objects, of moving and changing artistic processes that predetermine a new technique and aesthetics of music performance. ORGAN2/ASLSP’s performance questions the boundaries of musical performance, from the role of the performer to the role of the listener, the material and temporal conditions of music, to articulate how slow is “as slow as possible”, prompting us to essentially reconsider the fundamental parameters of music.


music; experimental system; scientific and technical research; artistic research; John Cage; ORGAN2/ASLSP


Borgdorff H. The Conflict of the Faculties: Perspectives on Artistic Research in Academia. Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2012.

De Assis P. Epistemic Complexity and Experimental Systems in Musical Performance // Artistic Experimentation in Music: An Anthology / eds. D. Crispon, B. Gilmore. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2014. P. 41–54.

Rheinberger H.-J. Experimental Systems. The Virtual Laboratory. 2004. URL: http://vlp.mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de/essays/data/enc19.

Schwab M. Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research. Leuven: Leuven University Press, 2013.

Knorr Cetina K. Objectual Practice. The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory / eds. T. Schatzki, K. Knorr Cetina, E. Von Savigny. New York: Routledge, 2001. P. 184–197.

Rheinberger H.-J. Toward a History of Epistemic Things: Synthesizing Proteins in the Test Tube. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Вecker H. Ethnomusicology and Sociology: A Letter to Charles Seeger // Ethnomusicology. 1989. 33(2). P. 275–285.

Ullmann J. Happy New Ears: Halberstädter Cage Texte 1998-2010. Halberstadt Project archives. Halberstadt, 2010.

Schatzki T., Knorr Cetina K., Von Savigny E. (eds.). The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Latour B., Woolgar S. Laboratory Life: The social construction of scientific facts. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986.

Peters P. Research Organs as Experimental Systems. Experimental Systems: Future Knowledge in Artistic Research, ed. Michael Schwab. Leuven: Leuven University, 2013. P. 87–101.

Cage J. Silence: Lectures and Writings. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1961.

Cage J. A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1967.

Cage J. Empty Words: Writings ’73-’78. Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1979.

Maassen T. Nummerstukken: 449 filosofische beschouwingen bij de Halberstadtse uitvoering van John Cage’ Organ2/ASLSP. Zutphen: Wöhrmann Printservice, 2010.

Van de Vall R. The Devil and the Details. The Ontology of Contemporary Art in Conservation Theory and Practice // British journal of aesthetics. 2015. 55(3). P. 285–302.

Kotz L. Post-Cagean Aesthetics and the «Event» Score. 1995. P. 54–89.

Dokic J. Music, Noise, Silence: Some Reflections on John Cage // Angelaki: Journal of the Theoretical Humanities. 1998. 3(2). P. 103–112.

Fischer-Lichte E. The Transformative Power of Performance: A new aesthetics. London: Routledge, 2008.

Cage J. Organ2/ASLSP. London: Edition Peters, 1987.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.31312/2310-1245-2022-53-81-109


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2022 A. N. Lipov

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.