This is on our bookshelf downstairs rather than with the rest of the records, and Amazon sells it as a book. Lucy's mum, Paddy, gave it to me for my birthday a few years ago. Here's a review of the book part that I wrote a while back.
Longplayer is a continuous piece of music that began on 31 December 1999 and will play without repeating until the turn of the next millennium. This limited edition (1,000 copies) book is 12 inches square, and, yes, it includes a longplaying record with excerpts from the Longplayer composition. The essays that introduce the book are a mixed bag, reflections on the nature of music, time and human perceptions of each through history. But the substance of the book is Jem Finer's account of the five-year development of his ideas in composing and implementing Longplayer. He details his discussions with funding agencies, advisors, technical experts and others as he evolves an idea of a mechanical computer to help keep the music playing even if the electricity stops. The combination of practical and creative considerations — as necessity gives birth to invention — is what makes the book fascinating.
I first visited the London listening post for Longplayer in October 2003, and I hope to keep going back there for the rest of my life. It's open the first weekend of each month, but I make a point of going on its 'birthday', 31 December 1999, every year — you usually get a free bagel and a cup of champagne! My photos from these visits are among those you can find on Flickr.
It was about a decade earlier that I heard Brian Eno talking about making music for the "big here and the long now", and was intrigued by the idea that sets its horizons the short-term back-yard thinking. Then I read Stewart Brand's book on the Long Now. So when I came across Longplayer, I was, well, ready for it. (Eno was one of Jem Finer's advisors for the project.)
As I mentioned before I made a donation after my first visit, and have continued to be in touch with Jem sporadically since then. In return for the initial donation I got a CD of my chosen hour from the years that Longplayer has been playing so far. I chose the hour when I arrived, four hours late, in LA in 2001 and found the card D had sneaked into my suitcase — and I gave her the CD, which she loved. She told me that they'd visited the Longplayer listening post at Trinity Buoy Wharf when they were considering using the lighthouse for the launch of Year of the Artist. I continue to make a modest donation of 10 pence a day — how about doing something similar yourself (here)?
You can listen to Longplayer live any time you like (link valid only for the next 991 or so years — it says it's available for Macintosh and Windows, but plays perfectly well on my Linux Asus Eee PC). Of course, any hour you listen will sound similar to any other hour. Similar, but not identical — that's the point: the loops on which the composition is based only combine in exactly the same way every thousand years.
One of the nice things you learn from the book is that the 'original' Longplayer is scored to be performed by people playing tibetan bowls. It's one of those bowls you can see on the cover. The computer implementation is only a temporary solution to keeping the music playing (at Trinity Buoy Wharf, the iMac running Supercollider on Mac OS9 is looking pretty 'ancient' to our neophiliac eyes). The Clock of the Long Now faces similar issues: if you're designing a clock that you want to run for 10,000 years, you have to make it out of stuff that is a lot, lot more durable than your average PC.
Wikipedia entry for this album
Details of the book on the official website