Top 5 @ 105 Musical Marathons

Monday, April 05, 2010

On Sunday, Issue Project Room in Brooklyn opens its doors and inaugurates a soon-to-be renovated new space with Ne(x)tworks' performance of Morton Feldman's 6-hour String Quartet No. 2. The event will stream live on Q2.

While the piece certainly requires the stamina of a distance runner to play, its duration pales in comparison to other works or concerts. Here is WQXR's list of the Top 5 @ 105 musical marathons.

1. While John Cage's As Slow As Possible could technically be slower, it's hard to imagine how. The composer's instructions dictate a tempo of two to three notes per year. A church in Haberstadt, Germany dedicated its organ to the process, beginning the composition on Sept. 5, 2001. At this rate, the piece will end in 2639.

2. British composer Jem Finer is providing continuous accompaniment to this millennium. Finer's Longplayer, which started at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, 1999 is scheduled to be playing at Trinity Buoy Wharf in London through 2999.

3. Though Karlheinz Stockhausen's Licht can be performed within a lifetime, it's long by just about any other standard. The German composer spent three decades writing the 29-hour cycle of seven operas, one for each day of the week. The score calls for choir, orchestra with synthesizer, and a string quartet playing from helicopters above the concert hall.

4. Compared to the above, Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelugen seems concise. Still the four-opera cycle clocks in around 19-hours (give or take a few minutes depending on the tempo), long enough to narrate the rise and fall of his metaphysical world. The Los Angeles Opera will debut its new Ring production in May.

5. Erik Satie gave the following playing instructions for his piano composition Vexations: "To play this motif 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." Finger exercises would help, too. It takes 14 hours to play the motif at a rate of once per minute.

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About Top 5 @ 105

WQXR helps you make the most of the New York City’s classical music scene.

Our "Top 5 at 105 " features can't-miss experiences: the best concerts, books and films about music, places to eat before and after shows, and more.