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

Brow Beat
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

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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.”

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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.