Skip to content

I spent last Saturday in the Roundhouse, London. In the 1840s and 1850s it was a locomotive storage shed for the London and Birmingham Railway, and it’s now an arts venue.

I was there for the first live performance of Jem Finer’s ‘Longplayer‘, a piece of music designed to play without repeating for 1,000 years. It’s normally computer-generated, and has been playing since 31 December 1999, but Saturday saw 1,000 minutes (nearly 17 hours) of it played live. It was remarkable (not just my view – see this FT piece).

Longplayer Live, 12 September 2009 (credit: David Rooney)

Shifts of musicians followed a complex score to play 234 Tibetan singing bowls which together formed a 20-metre wide composite instrument. Elsewhere, a relay of writers, poets, scientists and other thoughtful people conducted a Longplayer Conversation for twelve hours.

We’ve developed a pretty short attention span. By thinking longer into the future than we’re used to doing, we will surely be able to solve the global, long-term problems that are facing us. Longplayer, and creative projects like it, prompt those conversations about our long future, and I love them for it.

But I am a transport curator. Must find transport connection.

OK, aside from the fact that the Roundhouse used to be a locomotive shed, how about this: if you want to hear Longplayer, and you’re near London, why not visit the main listening post. It’s at Trinity Buoy Wharf, near East India station, which used to be the site of Trinity House‘s coastal navigation workshop. We’ve got a signal cannon from one of their light ships. See? It’s all about transport, really.