On the banks of the River Thames in London, England, the world’s longest song has been playing for nearly 20 years.
It’s the brainchild of British composer Jem Finer, who’s better known as a founding member of the Pogues, a Celtic punk band. Jem was pondering the universe when he came up with an intriguing idea.
“As the year 2000 approached, I started to wonder about how to make sense of a millennium,” Jem said. “And how to possibly focus the mind on time as a longer and slower process than the frenetic jump-cut pace of the late 20th century.”
To capture the concept, he decided he would create a piece of “everlasting” music that would outlive every single person on Earth. So he got to work figuring out how to overlap pieces of music produced by 234 Tibetan singing bowls. The end result: a clever masterpiece he called “Longplayer.”
“If you imagine taking six copies of the same record and playing them on six different turntables, you spin them at six different speeds,” he explained. “You’re moving through the material at different points on each one, and in that way, you have a relationship that never resolves, never comes back into phase, until exactly after 1,000 years.”
He selected Tibetan singing bowls because of their complex tones and pleasant, soothing melodies. The instruments are traditional meditation tools that date back to 550 B.C. They’re used not only to meditate but also to reduce stress and encourage holistic healing and balance, something people will still need hundreds of years from now.
“Longplayer” began at midnight on December 31, 1999 and will continue uninterrupted until it restarts in 2999.
Since the song’s creator and current stewards won’t be around for 1,000 years, a trust was established to keep “Longplayer” going. Trustees will continue to be individuals who are dedicated to maintaining and researching eternal songs. As the trust states, “If you can hear it now, you are sharing an experience with listeners who will not draw their first breath for more than 950 years.”
The trust accepts donations to support the running cost of about $125 per day. You can even sponsor a bowl and have your word of choice engraved onto it, or you can “buy time” by selecting a day and composing the music that will play during those 24 hours.
It’s hard for us to comprehend what life might be like in 1,000 years, but “Longplayer” inspires us to open our minds to the infinite possibilities. This project so perfectly demonstrates the uniting nature of music and the immensity of time and space.
Watch the video below to learn more about “Longplayer,” and be sure to share this fascinating project with others.