Welcome to a Multimedia Presentation Created by Joel F. W. Price, May, 1999.

Webpage begun on May 7, 1999, coincidentally the 175th anniversary of the debut of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 (debut was May 7, 1824).

My inspiration for this creation was sparked by a suggestion from a friend and classmate of mine, Michaela De Soucey. After racking my brains trying to figure out how I could work music into a final project for Psychology 68: Reading Culture, she suggested that I take a well-known piece of music and change it, then talk about blurring the distinction between what we consider to be "real" music and what we don't. I thought this was a fascinating idea in light of the recent reading of Baudrillard's Simulations and viewing of The Matrix.

In his book, Simulations, Baudrillard examines the virtual disappearance of the real due to the emergence of simulated realities, that is, simulations that reflect basic reality while simultaneously "mask[ing] and pervert[ing]" it (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 11). Like a fable which changes over time due to constant personal reinterpretation, music reflects transformation of the culture. New forms of music emerge from older ones. Music "evolves" through the constant reflection upon and transformation of "real" forms of music. Musical styles reflect the essence of the time and culture. Older forms are never exterminated, they are simply delegated to the pages of history. The human desire to preserve the "real" by replication always results in the "render[ing] [of] both [as] artificial" (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 18). The composer's score is the only "true" version of the song because it is unmarred by personal interpretation, unlike any performance or other interpretation of the work. Baudrillard's ideas prompted me to think about how I could take a work from an earlier era and distort it in order to test the boundaries of what Western culture perceives music to be and how this perception has changed over time.

The piece I chose was the well-known part of the fourth movement of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9. (Op. 125 "Choral" in D Minor), more widely known as "Ode to Joy." There is some controversy surrounding the poem "Ode To Joy" by Schiller that might make this project even more interesting. Beethoven the titled the finale "An die Freude" meaning "Ode to Joy" although there is much discussion as to whether the "Freude" (Joy) can be replaced by "Freiheit" (Freedom). There is no conclusive evidence suggesting that this was Schiller's intention when writing the poem, although "in view of Schiller's background and experience, as well as the content of the poem, substituting `Freedom' for `Joy' is basically acceptable and reasonable" (Cook, 1993, p. 96). In one performance of Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in 1989, the conductor, Leonard Bernstein, actually had the choir sing "Freiheit" instead of "Freude" throughout the performance because the concert was celebrating the reunification of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The orchestra was comprised of musicians from both sides of the former Berlin Wall (Cook, 1993, pp. 94-5). In this project, I took the "freedom" of changing the "Ode to Joy" music. How does this affect its meaning? (I would like to hear your responses, please email me if you would like to share your response with me). Another interesting note regarding Symphony No. 9: Beethoven was deaf when he wrote Symphony No. 9 and when he saw it performed for the first time on May 7, 1824. This was interesting to me; undoubtedly, Beethoven could "hear" the music as he composed it, but not in the sense that we would define "hearing" the music. After its debut performance, Beethoven had to be turned around by one of the orchestra members in order to see the tremendous ovation that his work received. From its very conception, the piece was destined to be different than a piece of music where the composer can play the various parts and hear them as well. Beethoven relied solely on his prior knowledge and aptitude as a composer to create something which he could not have heard aurally. This piece was played in his mind, to his mind, but not to his ears.

Below you will find different links to attempts of mine to blur the boundaries between what we believe Beethoven intended "Ode to Joy" to "sound like" and what might be considered to be increasingly cacophonous noises produced on acoustic plug-in violin and acoustic plug-in mandolin. The "original" piece I worked from was an already distorted version of "Ode to Joy" because it was a reinterpretation of the original scoring of the piece. Because it is impossible to know Beethoven's true intentions for the piece, any performances of it are naturally perverted replications. I was wondering what was considered music to us and what wasn't as I played the snippet in all of the different styles. We often hear people ask questions like "How can you listen to that noise?" in relation to rock music or heavy metal. How do we define music? What is nice to my ears may be horrid to yours. I tried to use several different techniques to try and hover on the boundary between what some listeners might consider music and what some listeners might consider to be "too odd" to be music. In my own performance, I am taking the already once-perverted rendering of "Ode to Joy" and taking it further from what Beethoven had intended by disregarding notes on the original score and by not orchestrating the piece with the originally intended instruments. The changes which I imparted on the piece reflect the current trend in Western music of distorting the original sound of instruments through the use of electronic effects and amplification. In order to help discern different variations on the theme, I have named each of them according to the type of "spin" I've put on them in order to somehow distort them from the original "real" version. After you have heard each version, please take part in my poll on whether you felt that what you heard was "real music." The link to the poll is below the downloadable samples. You can also listen to the .mp3s without downloading them if your web browser can play the samples which are in .mp3 format. Go to the "Listen Now" page if you would like to hear them without downloading them.

*In order to listen to these samples, you will need an .mp3-reading program of some sort.

For PC users, this can be found and downloaded from:


For Macintosh users, this can be found and downloaded from:


*In order to download these .mp3 files, you will need to right-click on the link to the .mp3 if you are using a PC or option-click on the .mp3 if you are using a Macintosh. Some browsers will allow you to listen to the MP3 without downloading the software but this capability is not yet available on all computers.

The downloadable .mp3s:

1/26/02: Please email me if you would like to hear the MP3s. I have taken them down due to space restraints.

The snippet of the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony composed by Beethoven that I based my harmonies around.

A basic harmony different than what Beethoven had written

A more complex harmony played on the mandolin

A harmony which utilized various effects pedals to create an "underwater" kind of sound

A harmony of sorts which consists of a sole note played repeatedly

A harmony exemplifying how a major scale can be tucked into the melody

An odd-to-Western-music-standards harmony consisting of the melody played simultaneously with the major third above it

Another un-Western-music harmony consisting of the melody played simultaneously with the perfect fourth below it

My attempt to play a harmony with tinges of bluegrass and country

A harmony using screaming distortion effects along with a Jimi Hendrix-esque solo ending

*Don't forget to take part in the poll . Please participate in the poll only once so the results can maintain some semblance of being "real."


Click here to see the results of the poll thus far.

If you felt that some samples went across the boundaries of music/not music, please email me with which ones you felt were blurred and which ones crossed the boundary into what you considered to be something other than music. Due to the limitations of the poll, I am unable to offer a poll for each individual question. I will do my best to keep the page updated with what people have told me they consider to be something other than music. Thanks!

If you have any comments on this page, please email them here and I'll do my best to get back to you if you have questions. Thanks for visiting!
Thanks to Michaela De Soucey, Vale Jokisch, and Michael Marissen for their ideas on this project, and to James Muspratt for his music encoding expertise.
Works Cited:

Baudrillard, J. (1983). Simulations. NY: Semiotext[e] and Jean Baudrillard.

Cook, N. (1993). Beethoven: Symphony No. 9. MA: Cambridge University Press.

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