Jonny Greenwood Announces New Eight-Hour Organ Piece

“268 Years of Reverb” will be performed this May at Norwich, UK’s Octagon Chapel

BY Kaelen BellPublished Feb 29, 2024

The Smile just released their sophomore album Wall of Eyes last month, but Jonny Greenwood seems to be on a roll. The Radiohead guitarist has announced “268 Years of Reverb,” a new eight — eight! — hour organ composition.

The piece will be performed on May 18 by James McVinnie and Eliza McCarthy at Norwich, UK’s Octagon Chapel as part of the Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

Check out Greenwood’s statement about the piece below:

The organ is the lungs and voice of any building where it is installed. In an old church, air is going through the same organ pipes, in the same space, that other listeners have experienced for centuries. So, hearing church organs is a kind of time travel, the closest we have to faithfully reproducing ancient sound. In the Octagon Chapel, it’s 268 years of time: season after season spent celebrating, commiserating, praising, mourning, to the same recorded sounds. This time is measured over generations, though the rituals of the church, and is a reminder that churches are the repository for the books of parish records as well as Bibles.

In writing this, I was influenced by the classical Indian approach to melodies, where new notes are introduced very gradually into improvised solos – the arrival of each note is so long-awaited, that its arrival is a revelation of a new world. Knowing this introduces huge tension into the experience of listening to that music. Also, within the drone of the tanpura are the swirling overtones and harmonics that compound the complexity and beauty of the textures. It’s meditative, but not just meditative, because of this tension. Melodies in Indian music are often thought of as circular, rather than linear – you’re climbing on to a moving wheel, not starting and ending in silence.  

This is why the first and last chords of X years of reverb incorporate notes below/above audible frequencies. In this way, the music passes across the room as it passes across the audible spectrum, in the same way a rainbow is only the narrow range of the visible spectrum amongst all possible frequencies of light.

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