The 9 Beet Stretch

The Internet has always been an enormous collection of pretty boring things mixed with pretty interesting things and sprinkled with pretty awesome things. The difficulty lies in finding those awesome things, a task which some websites actually specialize in. A few days ago, someone brought to the attention of everything2 an awesome thing that was making the rounds of the "awesome Internet things" crowd: a live puppy video feed. May I present to you another: The 9 Beet Stretch. It is nothing less than perhaps the world's greatest single piece of music, Ludwig van Beethoven's 9th symphony in D minor, STRETCHED TO SPAN 24 HOURS. The music was not slowed down; the pitch remains identical to the source recording (performed by Nicolaus Esterházy Sinfonia and Chorus, conducted by Béla Drahos).

The Greatest Ambient Music In The World

Stretched this drastically, the music is of course completely changed. Timpani rolls that lasted 15 seconds are now extended to 300 seconds. The slow, lilting strings in the third movement seem to last hours, and there is no longer such thing as the quick excited bursts of sound at the beginning of the second. Amazingly, the piece retains its power and emotion. What used to be exuberance has been transformed into unbearable, inexorable tension and anticipation. Dramatic sweeps of music extend from one horizon to another, and straining to imagine what the end will be like, the beginning has already faded from memory. The sheer majesty of the creation is overwhelming; listening to the first hour and knowing twenty-three more are behind it just waiting to pour down on you is a sensation I haven't encountered with anything else. That sensation is key. It wouldn't be hard for an ambient artist to pick a couple sounds from a symphony and make a couple tracks based on long exaggerations of his selections. The power behind the 9 Beet Stretch is symbolism. It's the iconic unbeatable 9th, played all day, once every day.

Inside the Ninth

The first time I heard the symphony in its entirety was after I watched A Clockwork Orange and thought I could be as quirky a badass as Alex was. It wasn't just childlike imitation, I did like the selections that were in the film. When I heard it, I realized that Alex and I may not see eye to eye on the big issues, but as I slooshied, I knew such lovely pictures. Now one of my very few prized possessions is an 180-gram vinyl double LP of Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic in Beethoven's 9th. One thing I like about this particular record is something that grated on my nerves when first I noticed it. The first record has Side A and D, and the other has B and C. When Side A is over, rather than flipping the disc you must remove it entirely, put it in the sleeve, take out the other disc, and put that on. This was one of my first records I ever bought, so at first I was annoyed by all the work I had to do. It wasn't until a month later that I began to appreciate that flipping ritual. It connects you to the music. Putting the needle to the vinyl is the greatest allure of playing records, and the more opportunities I have to do it, the better. I can't write this music. I couldn't conduct it, or play a single instrument in the orchestra. I should be happy, even honoured, to flip a record and play some small part in the performance. I like being involved now. The 9 Beet Stretch webcast does not require me to play, it plays regardless. However, there is a very intimate, engulfing quality to it. It pulls you in and allows you to inspect every instant of the symphony in great depth. It's like drowning in an ocean, the water claiming you for its own, and against such massive opposition how can you struggle? It is a very pleasant death.

The Origin of 9 Beet Stretch

9 Beet Stretch was devised as an installation art piece before becoming a relatively widespread Internet curiosity. Its mastermind is artist Leif Inge, and the digital stretching itself was done twice, in 2002 and 2004, at a resource in Norway called NOTAM (Norwegian network for Technology, Acoustics and Music). It has been performed in various styles and venues around the world, and the website details the artist's desire to play the work in a concert hall filled with beds, or an exhibit in a private hotel room, which would obviously be for a smaller audience.

Nine Bate Stretch?

Yeah, I don't know how to pronounce it either. Saying beet with a long 'e', as in the root vegetable or Allen Ginsberg, sounds a whole lot better than the long 'a' sound that is usually associated with the composer's name. 9 "Beat" Stretch sounds hip and cool, does it not? It already sounds like we're talking about music that way. Some might argue that this isn't really music, but I would vastly prefer to lose myself in eternal Beethoven than listen to anyone who holds that opinion.


The stream itself is right over here.

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