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Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Length of a Compact Disc and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony

Has anyone ever wondered why a CD holds 74 minutes of music? Why not 60 or 64? Well, I came across an interesting urban legend today that may just be the answer. It may not be a coincidence that the size of a CD is just big enough to hold a complete recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

Philips and Sony collaborated to produce the Compact Disc. The orginal prototype was an 11.5 cm, 14-bit disc that held 60 minutes of music. However, Sony president Norio Ohga insisted that the format was too small. He proposed a 12 cm, 16-bit disc that held 74 minutes of music. Coincidentally, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony just happened to be Ohga's favorite classical work. It also happened to be Sony chairman Akio Morita's wife's favorite as well.

Another explanation is that the legendary conductor Herbert von Karajan demanded that a disc be able to hold a recording of the symphony. Karajan was a big proponent of the Compact Disc's development and many claim that his recording of the Ninth Symphony was indeed the reference for how long the disc should be.

I'd love to hear what everyone thinks on this. Legend or reality? Leave a comment.


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Comments on "The Length of a Compact Disc and Beethoven's Ninth Symphony"


Anonymous Anonymous said ... (8:53 PM, July 31, 2006) : 

Indeed it was Karajan who insisted to Sony Chairman Akio Morita that the compact disc be able to fit all of Beethoven's ninth. Karajan's involvement with Sony regarding the early development of the compact disc is now well documented, as was his fascination of all things technical and his commitment to digital recording.


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