Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Roll over Beethoven (to the N-th)

I'll admit that my prejudices in classical music run towards the 20th century brand. Sure, I appreciate and enjoy ye olde Euro-masters when I hear them in the background at stores or when I utilize their services as background music for difficult writing. I even have a long time crush on Puccini and Wagner thanks to their destruction at the hands of Bugs Bunny (ditto many others at the hands of Spike Jones).

And then a Los Angeles Times story caught my eye. Much in the same vein as Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho (1993) which took Alfred Hitchcock's classical piece of Oedipal horror and stretched it on for a day, composer Leif Inge takes Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and stretches it out for the same period of time as "9 Beet Stretch."

OK, this sounds pretty hokey, right? But just as Gordon's work showed that even each frame in Hitchcock's film deserved to frozen and examined, Inge does the same with Ludwig Van. As guitarist/author Alan Licht once summed up minimalism, the idea behind it is having the music stay in one place and looking at its essence. That's exactly what Inge does here with the well-worn work, making it into a monumental piece of minimalism that John Adams would remove an appendage for. Thanks to ADD, it's not realistic for me to sit through all of such a conceptual piece but even sampling a few minutes of its epic grandeur did move me in a way that I hadn't been otherwise in Beethoven's work. Call me a philistine but Inge's work is a trip. I'm kicking myself for missing him at SXSW this year and may have to make amends by attending his Gotham visit in January to Issue Project Room.

Still don't believe me? Check out the 9 Beet Stretch website and listen to the piece in streaming audio.


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