What It Sounds Like If You Play 100 Vinyl Copies of The White Album at Once

Slate's Culture Blog
Nov. 21 2013 4:27 PM

What It Sounds Like If You Play 100 Vinyl Copies of The White Album at Once

The 'White Album' room at the Beatlemania exhibition in Hamburg, Germany in 2009.

Photo by Krafft Angerer/Getty Images

Back in February, the New York Times reported on “We Buy White Albums,” an art installation by Rutherford Chang. Chang collected hundreds of first-edition vinyl copies of The Beatles, aka The White Album, “some in near-mint condition, others bearing former owners’ names, psychedelic renderings of ‘The Beatles,’ colorful drawings or, in many cases, patterns created by rotting cardboard.” He then made a faux-record store consisting entirely of these LPs.

Chang told Allan Kozinn, the Times writer, that “the final element of his project will be a recording on which several hundred copies of The White Album—that is, every copy he listens to during the show—are electronically overlaid.”


Now, in time for the 45th anniversary of the album’s release, which is tomorrow, you can listen to his creation, Side 1 x 100. As that title suggests, Chang has overlaid just 100 copies, instead of several hundred; even so, the unique ways in which each copy has aged, plus “variations in the pressings” and “natural fluctuations in the speed of Mr. Chang’s analog turntable” result in a bizarre composition that builds from the familiar to the cacophonous. “Back in the U.S.S.R.” sounds about how you remember at first, if a bit muddy. But the storm of variation builds quickly, and by the end of “Dear Prudence” it’s as though you’re swirling around with a record player in the middle of a tornado.

If you stay with it (or skip ahead), “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” peters out like the end of a rainstorm.

David Haglund is a senior editor at Slate. He runs Brow Beat, Slate's culture blog.



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