Halberstadt is a town of the musical avant-garde. Beginning in September 2001, the world’s longest and slowest concert began.
The St. Burchardi-Kirche is performing the late American composer John Cage’s “As SLow As Possible” (ASLAP) on the organ. Since a well-maintained organ can last for hundreds of years, some philosophers and musicians began discussing the possibility of a concert.
They eventually agreed on a number — 639. For 639 years, the piece could be played on the organ. Because the church of St. Burchardi was built 639 years before the project was proposed in the year 2000, it became the chosen venue.
On September 5, 2001 the performance began with silence, a scheduled pause that was to last until February 5, 2003. On that date, the first chord was sounded and lasted through July 5, 2005, with a sound change on July 5, 2004. Since then, there were several more sound changes, sometimes even two in one year, which are popular tourist events in Halberstadt.
If you’re not in time for one of the note changes (check the aslsp.org website), there’s plenty else to keep you busy here. Before the Nazi era, this town was known for its strong Jewish culture. There was a beautiful synagogue that was ruined during the anti-Jewish Kristallnacht attack. Sadly, it had to be dismantled because of the irreparable damage.
Today, the Klaus building is a major center of Judaism and the study of the Torah.
The St Stephen’s Cathedral is another cultural and architectural high point. Its churches are home to an unspoiled medieval treasury with over 650 exhibits. Everything from textiles to manuscripts, sculptures and goldsmith work can be seen in this impressive collection.
The Halberstadt zoo is another fun place to visit. It houses over 250 different animal species, including wolves, kangaroos and exotic birds. There’s a petting zoo for the very young and even animal accommodation for pets who have been abandoned.