Monday, February 16, 2009

Festina Lente

We could all learn a thing or two from the good burghers of Halberstadt. I learnt late last week from my good friends on Radio Four, that these fine folk have embarked on a monumental work set to far surpass and little local difficulties we might be experiencing in the developed world at the moment. In the midst of present financial and political turmoil they have begun a concert whose ambitions will, if completed, span generations, if not epochs.

As we all fret and worry about the fragility of the economy, witnessed locally by the flurry of job losses in the midlands car makers and their attendant parts suppliers, they gathered last week to witness the playing of a new chord in this concert. The chord began but and eyeblink (as I believe the literal translation of a German term would have it) ago in 2003. It will change every 18 months or so, playing steadily throughout the intervening span on the organ of St Burchard’s Curch. Played to its completion the piece should last around 640 years.

That’s right, YEARS.

The time chosen is significant as it reaches forward in time as far as the founding of St Burchard’s reaches back. In those intervening 640 years we have gone from illuminated manuscript to internet, and from horseback through horsepower to spaceflight. The way has been strewn with calamities, market crashes, wars and pestilences to be sure, but equally with triumphs in art, music, medicine and technology unimaginable to the Halberstadters of yesteryear.

I have a new thing to add to the list of “things to do before I die”, and this one should be there for generations of Jests yet unborn to do likewise, whatever befalls us inbetween. And for roughly twenty generations, should we all be lucky enough to be able to participate, and should the concert get to run its allotted course, we could all claim to have been present at the same event. A thought I find both humbling and ennobling. I doff my cap’o’bells to the fair city of Halberstadt and its visionary folk.


Abi said...

It doesn't exactly sound harmonious at the moment, though. Although the idea is an interesting one, and I like it a lot, it would not be enjoyable listening to that for over a year!

ageing student said...

When we visited the late lamented Millenium Dome, we were introduced to the concept of a piece of(computer-generated) music that was supposed to last for 1,000 years without repetition. Since the Dome closed eight years ago, I have sometimes wondered whether anyone bothered to continue running the program and, if so, just who is still listening to it. The music you are talkng about is, presumably, being played by real people but I still wonder how long it will last - what if no-one in the parish has any interest in the scheme twenty years from now or two hundred years from now? What if the piece outlives us all?

Swiss Missus said...

To be honest, this concept baffles me and leaves me a bit, well, meh. The sensualista in me doesn't really 'get' it. I'm a curl-up-into-a-chair-and-listen kind of person. I want the music I listen to concentrated and intense, and I want it to leave me in its entirety with a sensual 'sound' memory to savour.

The Halberstadt concept is 'slow music' in its purest form, but I can't help feeling it's a bit of a gimmick.

Then again, maybe I'm completely missing the point. :-)