Friday, May 10, 2013

24 hours of Beethoven

In a graduate seminar on Beethoven's ninth symphony I took at Florida State, I learned about Leif Inge, a Norwegian artist who slowed a recording of the iconic work down so it stretched over 24 hours. He called it 9 Beet Stretch. But a clever name does not a clever project make.

My sadistic professor made us listen to about 45 minutes of it in a room with no windows--probably so we wouldn't have the opportunity to hurl ourselves out of them.

The work was performed about a dozen times in its entirety, and in those performances, only about a dozen people ever sat through the whole thing.

I can only imagine that anyone listening to 9 Beet Stretch would feel a sense of urgency, mentally fighting the sound, trying to push it along. At least in the first few hours. Maybe something more comes later, maybe there's a revelation at the eighth or seventeenth hour, but I will never know. And it's not because I can't endure things of great length--I love the "Ring" cycle.

My physical reaction is one thing, but intellectually, I still don't support it--and I can acknowledge that there's some carry over from the former. I'm not a purist, so I would never say something shouldn't be done because "that's not how the composer intended it." All I can do is tell you why I hate it. There are small moments in the music that Inge bloated by drawing them out. They still have the same proportionate relationship to the big moments, but you would never know it. You can't discern the small and the big in this form; honestly, I don't think you could discern the voices from the violins. This project neutralizes the hills and valleys, and who wants that?

The Charlotte Symphony Orchestra will close their season this weekend with Beethoven's ninth symphony. I'm really looking forward to the normal tempo.

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