BeethovEnBloc
Harald Muenz - 2000

for tape

BeethovEnBioc is my personal response to a monument of German "Leidkultur'' ["culture of suffering" - an untranslatable pun on "Leitkultur'' ("leading culture"), the political slogan introduced by the CDU party in Germany to encapsulate the idea of German culture as the dominant culture within multicultural Germany]. The composition's only materials are the sounds of the thirty-seven movements of the nine symphonies of Ludwig van Beethoven.

After I had tested as many of the different renditions of the symphonies as possible, the recordings were first of all cleaned, balanced and timed. For each symphony I calculated an average movement length from the durations of its individual movements. Subsequently I used time-stretching to bring all the movements of the symphony to this duration, but without altering the pitch. This time-consuming transformation method sometimes caused rather extreme stresses or strains to the originals. Thus for each symphony I achieved a compact overlaid form of all its movements. These nine blocks can also be performed separately.

The next stage was once again to establish an average duration of these nine assemblages (and consequently of all 37 movements), so that - again without altering pitch - each individual complex could be brought to this average length of 9 minutes 26 seconds. Finally I superimposed these nine structures and thus achieved a compact block of all the Beethoven symphonies.

The sound composition makes possible perceptual insights which "Ludwig van" would have been unlikely to grant. At first the continuous fortissimo can be quite hard for the listener, but then one is astonished by the transparency of the sound. Which of the 37 movements is at any moment the strongest? Once one has come to terms with the volume, the superimposed dynamic fluctuations of this hallucinatory stream of sounds flood into the ear. Finally one is able, by further focusing one's perception, to pursue innumerable individual threads in this shining tapestry.

Performances