Four of the Weirdest Pieces of Classical Music of All Time

Four of the Weirdest Pieces of Classical Music of All Time
Four of the Weirdest Pieces of Classical Music of All Time

Classical music has long been associated with eccentricity, incredible dedication, complexity and the pushing of stylistic boundaries. It is no wonder then, that some of the strangest concepts ever committed to sheet music can be found in this long-lasting genre. From 630-year performances, to seven-day festivals of sight, sound and smell in the Himalayas or entire symphonies from sampled bird song – these are four of the strangest pieces ever written by classical composers.

Organ²/ASLSP (As Slow as Possible) by John Cage

No selection of weird classical music pieces would be complete without mentioning American avant-garde legend John Cage. His most infamous work was 4”33, in which musicians stand silently still on stage in front of their instruments for four minutes and 33 seconds. However, arguably even weirder is the ongoing performance of his 1985 piece As Slow as Possible.

Various performances have taken place in the past, that have attempted to fulfil Cage’s title of the piece. Some have even reached the 24-hour mark, but no-one will likely ever beat the record that is still going on today – a performance which began in 2001 on a specially constructed organ in St. Burchardi church in Halberstadt, Germany. It isn’t set to end until 2640, with anywhere between seven years and 3-4 to months between each note change or addition.

Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti — Unknown Composer

Translating as ‘Humorous Duet with Two Cats’ this one is actually a strangely popular concert piece, often performed as an encore in a choral performance. Telling the story of two cats meeting, then fighting and making up again, the entire thing is performed using only operatic variations on the word ‘meow’ – or ‘miau’ in the original Italian.

Composed in 1825, it is often attributed to notable opera writer Gioachino Rossini – but many experts today believe it may have been written as a joke parody of his style.

Mysterium by Alexander Scriabin

Alexander Scriabin was one of the greatest composers of 19th century Russia, but also notoriously delusional and obsessed with mysteries such as synaesthesia and the occult. Beloved of Rachmaninov, amongst many other icons of music at the time, he died at the early age of 47 in 1915. His last unfinished piece, Mysterium, has never been performed – and most probably never will be.

Aiming to ‘dissolve the barrier between audience and performers, allowing for a spiritual communion leading to an ecstatic dissolution and transfiguration of the world’, Mysterium was envisioned as a seven day composition soundtracking a festival of the senses in the Himalayan mountains.

Symphony of the Birds by Jim Fassett

Way back in 1960, American CBS Radio presenter and music critic Jim Fassett released an entire symphony composed and arranged from real sampled bird songs recorded in the field by ornithologists. Honestly, it’s nowhere near as listenable as it sounds – coming across more like the paranoid backing music to Hitchcock’s classic horror The Birds more than the heavenly chirping and tweeting you might imagine. However, it can still definitely be viewed as a technical achievement – and certainly occupies a unique spot in the classical music canon.

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