The Artangel Longplayer Conversation 2011

James Lovelock is the originator of Gaia theory, a hypothesis he formulated in the 1960s as a consequence of his work for NASA on methods of detecting life on Mars, which proposes that Earth’s physical and biological processes are inextricably bound to form a self-regulating system – but not one that can indefinitely support human life. His latest book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia updates and reiterates the urgency of his original theory – proposing that climate change will result in inevitable global catastrophe, and that the human race should prepare for the worst. He is also the inventor of the electron capture detector (which made possible the detection of CFCs and other atmospheric nano-pollutants) and of the microwave oven.

John Gray has written several influential books on political theory and is perhaps best known for Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals, a critique of humanism; asserting that humanist belief in progress is derived from an erroneous Christian notion of humans as morally autonomous beings categorically different from all other animals. Gray sees volition, and hence morality, as an illusion, and portrays humanity as a ravenous species engaged in wiping out other forms of life. He writes that ‘humans […] cannot destroy the Earth, but they can easily wreck the environment that sustains them.’

Video of the conversation can be watched here.

More about Longplayer

Overview of Longplayer

Longplayer is a one thousand year long musical composition. It began playing at midnight on the 31st of December 1999, and will continue to play without repetition until the last moment of 2999, at which point it will complete its cycle and begin again. Conceived and composed by Jem Finer, it was originally produced as an Artangel commission, and is now in the care of the Longplayer Trust.

Conceptual Background

While Longplayer is most often described as a 1000 year long musical composition, the preoccupations that led to its conception were not of a musical nature; they concerned time, as it is experienced and as it is understood from the perspectives of philosophy, physics and cosmology. At extremes of scale, time has always appeared to me as baffling, both in the transience of its passing on quantum mechanical levels and in the unfathomable expanses of geological and cosmological time, in which a human lifetime is reduced to no more than a blip.

How does Longplayer work?

The composition of Longplayer results from the application of simple and precise rules to six short pieces of music. Six sections from these pieces – one from each – are playing simultaneously at all times. Longplayer chooses and combines these sections in such a way that no combination is repeated until exactly one thousand years has passed.

About Longplayer's Survival

From its initial conception, a central part of the Longplayer project has been about considering strategies for the future. How does one keep a piece of music playing across generations? How does one prepare for its technological adaptability, knowing how few technologies have remained viable over the last millenium? How does one legislate for its upkeep? And how can one communicate that responsibility to those who might be looking after it some 950 years after its original custodians have perished?