Now playing: First sound in world's longest concert

— First there was silence -- 1 1/2 years of it.

But that was just a brief lead-in for Friday's playing of the opening notes in what's planned as the world's longest concert, a 639-year piece being performed in a former church in east Germany.

With 72 years already mapped out, the concert inspired by the American avant-garde composer John Cage challenges the creativity of future generations to keep the music playing.

"This is a project that conveys optimism," said Michael Betzle, a businessman who helps run the private foundation behind the concert. "When you start something like that, you're counting on people's creativity 200, 300 years down the road."

The three notes played Friday are the debut for an organ built for Cage's music, with keys being held down by weights and with organ pipes to be added over the years for new notes.

The project, driven by a group of German music experts and an organ builder, revolves around a Cage piece called "Organ2/ASLSP" -- or "Organ squared/As slow as possible."

As the idea took shape in 2000, backers counted back to the 1361 inauguration of a famous organ in the Halberstadt cathedral -- 639 years earlier. They then stretched Cage's piece from a 20-minute piano concert to last just as long.

Anyone who missed Friday's gala has plenty of time to hear the opening E major chord. The next notes will be added in July 2004.

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