Bending the Night with Beethoven
The room glowed a midnight blue, my favorite mood hue. Miles Davis would be pleased, Joni Mitchell, too. Surely Leonard Cohen was about. But Beethoven loomed ever present in this vacuum of time, space, and sound.
Beanbag chairs, yoga prayer mats, and cushions centered the room. Our 24-hour Sanctuary. No more than 15 in the room at a time, 7 of us spent the night with Norwegian artist, Leif Inge’s 9 Beet Stretch: a 24-hour Listening Experience hosted by the Rubin Museum of Art, NY, NY one very cold night in February 2018.
Inge, primarily a visual artist, loves music’s technical side of things, tampering with computer-generated algorithms and abilities. He has produced many sonic projects, having “performed” this particular installation 30 times around the globe, about 2 per year for the past 15 years. Here, Inge took the iconic Beethoven’s 9th Symphony with its glorious last movement full of vocal chorus and extended it into a 24-hour listening extravaganza.
Let me explain - pitch was not changed. The strings still bowed rapidly, it’s just that you heard it extended over a long period of time, really able to drink it in. The first 3 Movements were about 5 hours each, the 4th Movement being 91/2 hours in duration. It was as if you could see and hear the next chord change coming from the horizon, pass over you, and move on across the land. When it rained, it rained and you were drenched!
The first hour and a half, I meditated. My attention began to wander toward analyzing the music. At this point, I thought to myself, “I will never make it through 24 hours”. I plopped down on a beanbag to contemplate my plight. Then I noticed how good it felt to sink not only into the beanbag but into the music. With surround sound, I was receiving a sonic massage.
Abandoning my pre-conceived notions, I relaxed into the experience and then became hooked. A few times, I moved around the room to notice the varying acoustics. Sitting on the stage, I absorbed the vibrations through the wooden floor - a real bonus. It was mesmerizing in a way that’s truly indescribable. Beethoven played me. I allowed it and I loved it. I truly drank it in, absorbing every movement and vibration. Oddly enough, emerging the next day, refreshed, grounded, and inspired. Submission has its rewards.
“Submission, absolute submission to your fate, only this can give you the sacrifice…to the servitude - O, hard struggle! Turn everything which remains to be done to planning the long journey - you must yourself find all that you most blessed wish can offer, you must force it to your will - keep always of the same mind.
Thou mayest no longer be a man, not for others, for thee there is no longer happiness except in thyself, in thy art - O God, give me strength to conquer myself, nothing must chain me to life.”
Beethoven’s Journals, 1812 - 1813
Beethoven: His Spiritual Development by J.W.N. Sullivan