09.32, Monday 19 Apr 2004

Leif Inge's 9 Beet Stretch is being performed in San Francisco, in its entirety. If you're a local, and free for 24 hours or so following 10pm next Friday (23 April), then go. Beethoven's 9th symphony timestretched to 24 hours. Each movement lasts about 5 hours. 2 minute crescendos now build over 20 minutes. It's slow. The performance is a sleepover.

I listened to the first four movements on my train ride from New York to San Diego (for Etcon, this year). My power ran out, but I'd listened to the 5th before. Over that length of time, you can't pay attention. The music affects your consciousness without you noticing, shapes your thoughts. It's impossible to pinpoint anything about the sound itself, only your own cognitive state. I made notes immediately afterwards. For a nearly a day's worth of listening, this is all I could muster, summarising each 5 hours chunk in a sentence:

1st movement is excellent, near the beginning, very exciting. End of the 2nd movement is scratchy. Not so keen on the 3rd. It seems quiet. The 4th is dark to begin with, then sad. I've heard the 5th before, but not this trip. I remember it being vocal and dramatic, especially at the beginning and in the middle.

(But I remember, within it, there were long portions where I was rapt, carried by the music, and even five minute transitions that were especially touching (that I'm not actually sure I could hear, now, outside the context of the movement).) And then:

9 Beet Stretch, like this long train ride, isn't a spectacle to be taken in and anticipated, but rather a smell: a field of potential to be used as extelligence, to be lived, the journey being the destination.

You can listen to 9 Beet Stretch yourself, in streamed Real, or download it as mp3s.

(More background and quotes from Inge at the New York Times: Beethoven's Ninth Around the Clock, What you hear in normal time as a happy Viennese melody lasting 5 or 10 seconds becomes minutes of slowly cascading overtones; a drumroll becomes a nightmarish avalanche, and the trance state induced by listening.)

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