April 18, 2004

Listening. You can listen to 9 Beet Stretch on line here. (See yesterday's posts if you don't know what I'm talking about.) It takes a while to make any audible sound at all, so don't give up. The ordinary speed first movement has a mysteriously slow intro, so when you slow that way the hell down, it might make you think the MP3 isn't working. I think it's nearly silent until the second minute! Well, if you're the impatient sort maybe this isn't your thing, but you might want to speed ahead to minute 2. The first audible note is very Ninth Symphony. If you get easily bored, you could simultaneously play, in slow motion, with the sound off, your DVD of Clockwork Orange. Or just read--read Philip K. Dick, like this guy, who made 9 Beet Stretch his Philip K. Dick reading soundtrack, noting that that it "is somewhat reminiscent of Blade Runner's soundtrack. It's got just the right mixture of desolation and transcendence, and is my favorite online audio find since SpamRadio."

I found the 9 Beet Stretch website through this nice review in The Village Voice. Here's an excerpt from that:
Electronic-sound jockeys must have fantasized about this idea ages ago, and it's a wonder that it waited for [9 Beet Stretch composer Lief] Inge to get around to it. Early composers who worked with audiotape agonized over their inability to change the speed of a sound without raising or lowering the pitch as well. In the '60s (according to genius sound engineer Robert Bielecki, my source for such data), there was some success in doing this with vocal samples, but music-quality time compression and expansion waited for the digital age. Today, many audio programs like ProTools contain pitch-shifting algorithms, because that's what you need: Changing the pitch without changing the speed is the same problem. Slowing down a sound is especially difficult, since the computer needs to interpolate identical wave forms in between the ones already there, but without causing glitches....

The second and third movements are remarkably lovely, eight hours of ethereal ambient music between them. The isolated violin notes of the scherzo's fugue turn into gossamer lines, while the slow movement's dissonances and suspensions take forever to melt, holding the ear rapt like the slowest Furtwängler recording of a Mahler adagio, only much slower. I find this 330-minute version of the Adagio a considerable improvement over the original. Who would have thought that Beethoven could have been a great ambient composer, if he had only divided his metronome markings by a couple dozen?

Looking back over my photos from yesterday, I realize that a glaring question is: Where is everybody? It looks completely empty! I was avoiding including people, in part because I wanted to be able to put the pictures up here and in part because I thought most people didn't add to the somber glory of the abandoned factory (visitors to my office know that when my iMac is unused for a couple minutes it starts to play pictures of abandoned buildings, which I got from a website I've now forgotten and would love to be able to find again (Inge used an iMac, by the way)). There was one woman I wanted to photograph--I would have asked her first, though. She was dressed like the people in this book. Oh, how I would love for this style of dressing to take hold in Madison!

I wonder if the audience grew as the 8pm end time approached. Perhaps it seemed to be an evening thing to do, or people just assumed the Ode to Joy part of the symphony would be best, the way I thought I'd prefer to hear something other than the Third Movement, which seems least interesting in normal time.

No comments: