A Beethoven 're-mix' using up to 30.000 mp3 iterations ('powers of mp3') of a recording of his Opus 133: Große_Fuge.mp30000.

Read more about this SB page, about 9 Beet Stretch & about the temporal stretching of audiofiles in: 'The strange case of the quite honorable Justin Bieber's temporal stretching (with pitch correction)'.

Listen 24/7 to the 9 Beet Stretch Raudio web-stream on your iPad or iPhone ... 9 Beet Stretch is used to be one of the amazing 21 +1 no-beginning no-end RAUDIO IIIII audio web streams, that streamed 24/7 for many, many years, but that —since +/- 2017— unfortunately no longer are available ...

9 Beet Stretch

may 14, 2005.

Leif Inge - in his own words - is an idea based artist. And '9 Beet Stretch' is one of his idea based works: (a recording of) Ludwig van Beethoven's ninth symphony digitally 'stretched' to last for twenty four hours; without changing the original pitches.

When I first heard (of) this idea (through the announcement of a 24 hour '9 Beet Stretch' event curated by Aaron Ximm in San Francisco last year), my reaction was probably pretty similar to that of many others: a chuckle followed by a 'wow!', with head shaking in amused acknowledgement ... A mixture of surprised amazement and curiosity, I mean. And I spent a couple of evenings downloading the whole thing from Leif's website: the full 24 hours, as a collection of nineteen lo-quality (32kHz, 96kbps) mp3's, together totalling to somewhat less than 999 Mb on my hard drive ... But a continuous 24/7 audio web stream, which just lets the work 'be' ... (out there) ... endlessly sounding its daily cycles... allowing one to tune 'in' and 'out' at will ... obviously that's a far more appropriate format for a sound work of this size ... ! So it indeed is a pleasure to present, in cooperation with Leif, the complete '9 Beet Stretch', in its second - hi(gher)-quality - version (128kbps), as a Raudio Stream Special. I started the stream on saturday may 7th, 2005, at 20h15 (the moment of sunset (local time) in Vienna, Austria, where Beethoven's ninth symphony was first performed, on may 7th, 1824).

So ... tune in, sit back ... relax ...

There are, I'd say, (at least) two ideas at work in this '9 Beet Stretch'.

First, there's the 'stretching without pitch distortion'. Which, in these digital times, of course ranks among available 'plunderphonic' techniques, and may - in principle - be used to 'stretch' whatever sound recording to whatever length: have 'Back in the USSR' last for three hours, let Sorabji's 'Opus clavibalisticum' drag on through all of your christmas' holidays, make John Coltrane blow his 'Love Surpreme' for a forthnight ... or have yourself 'sounding up' a squeaking twelve step wooden staircase one full hour a step ... (Though, as Emmanuel Ferrandtip pointed out in an email, the result will always be approximative; as the notion of 'pitch' in fact is not well-defined and the notion of 'frequency' not applies to signals of finite duration, a 'true' time-stretch is impossible ... [added march 22, 2006: In the same line, someone on one of the many bulletin boards that posted a link to 9bs and thus helped to 'spread the meme', commented that the terminology used is incorrect: 'without pitch distortion' should be 'with pitch correction' ...]) Approximate as it may be, it is a fascinating, relatively recent, digital asset. Unlike, of course, the idea and compositional use of stretching musical time to comparable extremes, which goes back at least as far as the medieval (French) composer Pérotin, who took "simple, well-known melod[ies] and stretch[ed them] out in time, so each syllable was hundreds of seconds long, and then use[d] each of those held notes [...] as the basis for rhythmically complex, interweaving lines above it".
Several reviewers of '9 Beet Stretch' said about the experience of listening to the 'expanded' sympho-sounds that it felt as if one were 'listening through a microscope'. Yes, these are wonderful sounds, floating and sparkling ... large parts of the piece do - for me - evoke images of a rivulet straming by, high up somewhere in the mountains, with the sun fiercely shining on the continuously changing pattern of little waves and small whirls adorning its surface ... as if ringing, 'without start and without end', with colors shifting gradually ... And I remember someone observing in some message to a mailing list (I can not recall the exact phrasing, though): it really does look as if Leif did stumble upon a magic wand that will instantly transform almost anything into high class ambient music ...


Many a software for digital sound processing will enable you to apply 'time compression/expansion' to (part of) a file. My version of ProTools does, but PT's 'default plugin' obviously was not meant to take things to extremes. Using the (one round) limit setting - a quadruple expansion - merely leads to a very - v e r y - approximate, 'artificial' and heavily phased, time-stretch of the original sound, and is nothing like the 'natural', smooth and well-defined, expansion one hears in '9 Beet Stretch'. Which - especially the second version, the one used for the stream - is exemplary in its execution ... (For the first, downloadable, version of '9 Beet Stretch', 'SND' was used; the more recent 'remake', used for the stream, was done with 'Common Lisp Music'. There are some more technical details on the 9BS web site.)

[ I really do think this world needs a digital music player with such a high-quality 'stretch'-option ... The player should enable you to, in real time!, 'stretch without pitch distortion' the playback of any audio file, applying a factor of your choice. (Now here's a challenge for all ya RD-ers! If Leif did not yet apply for a patent on this, I'll be happy to share it with him ... grin ... ) That would be a very interesting and useful gadget indeed .... I think I would use it a lot ... to investigate the 'stretch-a-bility' and/or 'compact-a-bility' of musics and sounds that I love, and some that I hate ... ]

Recordings of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in general last something between 65 and 75 minutes. The recording used for the streaming version of '9 Beet Stretch' is of a performance by the Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia and Chorus, conducted by Béla Drahos and originally released by Naxos in 1996. It lasts approximately 65 minutes, hence the applied expansion-factor is about 22.15 ... (Stretching to precisely 24 hours - a day and a night, the time it takes the earth to complet one full turn around its axis - of course is part of the idea's force as a symbolic - a meaningful - act.)

'9 Beet Stretch' has a visual precursor in Douglas Gordon's '24 Hour Psycho' (1993), a video projection, on a free standing 3 by 4 metres translucent screen, of Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho', slowed down to a length of 24 hours - but without sound(track). "Gordon's '24 Hour Psycho' disrupts the original narrative to such a degree", writes Christine Ross (pdf), "that memory and perception clash over [its] reconstruction [...]: [the] slow motion blurs the legibility of the image and breaks the flow of the image[, a perceptual] breakdown [that] sets into play a new 'Psycho', formed by the interaction of the video images and the viewer's mental images drawn from memories, reoriented expectations, daydreams, and fantasies." ...

... I haven't seen '24 Hour Psycho', but, quite obviously, at any moment what is being projected remains recognizable as '(an) image(s) from Psycho'. In a slowed down film or video it is 'nothing but' the tempo that changes. How forceful or unearthing the effect of this down-slowing be may, as a set of images 'Psycho' does not change. Each of its images remains as it was: an image complete in and by itself. Not so with music. In music this discreteness is lacking. It is alien to it. To sound ... So what do you hear when at some random time tuning in to the '9 Beet Stretch' stream? Try it. Tune in, listen to a couple of minutes of '9 Beet Stretch' and then ask yourself: "What did I hear?" Or ask someone else: "What did you hear?" I tried that. The answer - understandably - depends somewhat on which part of the symphony you happen to drop in to, but here's a typical answer:
- "... eh ... violins! ... wait ... no ..., is it an organ? ... no, violins ... makes one think of Mahler, no? ... it's a bit slow, though ... does it go on like this? ... doesn't change much ... oh! ... now there's an organ! ... and bras ... I think ... or ...?"
Unless he knows, I doubt anyone ever will tell you he is hearing 'a chord/harmony/note from Beethoven's ninth symphony' ... Because of the extreme slowness, and length of the former 'individual' notes, it is impossible for a human listener to group what have become vast fields of sound into the ('old') melodies and phrases; to recognize the slowed down 'beat' ... indeed a matter of memory 'failure', really (*) ... all the original structural elements, all 'musical atoms', were stretched way beyond the limits of our capability of perception. Which really means: they disappeared ... As in the 'slowed down Psycho', this implies a 'disruption of the original narrative'; but here the effect of this 'disruption' is far more drastic.

(*) [ In his useful and interesting course book Music and Memory, Bob Snyder loosely maps 'three time levels of musical experience' (a concept that Snyder attributes to Karlheinz Stockhausen) to three types or states of human memory. The first 'memory state' is that of echoic memory and early processing, during which "the inner ear converts sounds into trains of nerve impulses that represent the frequency and amplitude of individual acoustical vibrations [...]. This information persists as an echoic memory, which usually decays in less than a second, like an echo". Snyder relates this memory state to the event fusion level of musical experience, where acoustical vibrations 'fuse together' into events, like, for example, a certain pitch. The 'event-level' corresponds to time scales up to 1/16 of a second. "Events that are farther apart [are] individually discriminable but still not so far apart as to exceed the time limit of short-term memory (average 3-5 seconds per event), constitute the melodic and rhythmic level of musical experience[, whose] main characteristic [...] is that separate events on this timescale are grouped together in the present. [...] Large groupings of events that occur over a time span longer than the limits of short term memory [(16 seconds)] constitute the formal level of musical experience. [This] formal level and its articulation are associated with the structure and limits of long-term memory".
Clearly most of what were events in the original work, have, in '9 Beet Stretch' been expanded way beyond the limits of short term memory, hence are no longer experienced as such. A typical '9 Beet Stretch' event will correspond to changes and fluctuations on the 'sonic level' - the 'ambient', the 'microscope' effect indeed ... ]

It must be fairly easy to reconstruct most of Psycho's "storyline" (the movie's 'superstructure') from watching Douglas Gordon's 24 hour projection; I guess it will suffice to take notes at regular intervals. On the other hand, would one be able to reconstruct the original ninth just from listening to '9 Beet Stretch'? Create, even an approximate, (mental) image of what the original sounds like? That is: mentally 'compress' the expansion heard, back to its original length? I doubt anyone would be able to. As much as I doubt it being probable anyone would recognize Beethoven's work when being confronted with some random outtake from '9 Beet Stretch', without beforehand having been told that this is what he is going to listen to ... And this is, I think, at least part of the work's magic: the enduring clash, the unresolvable ambiguity between what one is hearing and what one knows to be hearing. On the one hand, as soon as one knows this is what it is, it's no longer possible to not hear '9 Beet Stretch' as a 'slowed down ninth'. But on the other hand, one cannot but hear '9 Beet Stretch' as ... '9 Beet Stretch'. Because all the (structural) properties that characterize the original work's are no longer accessible to our perception. And because of the sounds you hear, which are new sounds. They will remind you of the sounds made by classical acoustic instruments, and of vocal sounds. But they can only remind you of these, as many (though not all) of them could not possibly have been created by physically playing those instruments, or by actual singing. They are digital; electronic (re)creations, interpolations. '9 Beet Stretch' combines a 'sur-human' tempo with 'un-human' sounds ... A '9 Beet Stretch' actually performed by an orchestra would sound very different. Would again be another work altogether .... Oh, I did daydream about this! Wouldn't there somewhere be a conductor, an orchestra and a choir courageous enough to give this a try? On four successive days, say, one for each of the symphony's movements? Perform Beethoven's ninth at this 'sur-human' tempo? ... It would be amazing, for sure. But equally certain is that it would sound nothing like Leif's digital '9 Beet Stretch' ...

- [...] - es soll nicht sein. [...]
Es wird zurückgenommen. Ich will es zurücknehmen.
- Ich verstehe dich, Lieber, nicht ganz. Was willst du zurücknehmen?
- Die "Neunte Symphonie", erwiderte er. Und dann kam nichts mehr, wie ich auch wartete.
(Thomas Mann - Doktor Faustus)

Arguably, the 'same pitch'-expansion of any (classical - symphonic and/or choral) piece to 24 hours will be sonically very similar to the expanded 'ninth symphony', and therefore but a version of '9 Beet Stretch'. Leif Inge hints at so much himself, by indicating in the work's 'score' that, whenever for some reason a recording of the ninth symphony is not available, one may use and stretch a recording of Mozart's "Requiem" instead.

But of course, chosing Beethoven's "Ninth" is not a neutral choice. Far from. I'd say it's the second important idea at work in '9 Beet Stretch': the 'plundering' of precisely this 'icon of western culture' ... And much of the reactions to, and perceptions of, '9 Beet Stretch' - consciously or unconsciously - will be colored by it. (I think this is very apparent in several of the listeners' reactions and comments that are part of 'Idea of Ninth' (mp3 - 14Mb), a fine 15 minute audio reportage that Aaron Ximm made of the complete playing of '9 Beet Stretch' last year in San Francisco.)

Personnally, I never have appreciated the 'hysterics' of the choral section; a 'hysterics' that, together with the long during and still continuing ideological and propagandistic abuse of its (ambiguous) 'message' makes it - and not just for me - near impossible to listen to (especially) this (part of the symphony) 'objectively' ... (read, for example, James Schmidt's paper on 'Beethoven at Mauthausen' [see below]). And I do imagine many - be it for differing reasons - somehow agreeing with Mann's Adrian Leverkühn that, at least the choral part, is a work of art that 'should not have been', that 'had better be taken back' ...

From a such point of view, don't you think Leif's '9 Beet Stretch' might be a step in the right direction ... ?

[ ... ]

[ read more on 9BS: in Dutch: "Aan Beethoven trekken, Over Leif Inges 9 Beet Stretch" (by HarS - Cut-up [ (added September 4th 2010 - As Cut-up web-magazine no longer exists, the link is to a pdf version of the original online version. ])
"Norwegian Minimalist Raises Beethoven Molto Adagio Bar" (by Kyle Gann - Village Voice) ;
read more on Beethoven's Ninth: Nicholas Cook - Beethoven Symphony no. 9 (Cambridge Music Handbooks, CUP 1993) :: "In Music, though, there were no victories" (by Alex Ross - NYT, aug. 1995) :: "Not these sounds": Beethoven at Mauthausen (by James Schmidt - Philosophy and Literature, 2005, 29:: 146-163 (pdf) ]

[ Next related SB entries: 9 x 9 (may 18th, 2005) :: The strange case of the quite honorable Justin Bieber's temporal stretching (with pitch correction) (september 4th, 2010 ]

tags: Beethoven, 9 Beet Stretch, timestretch, time

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