Pete went to Vienna to study music at the Vienna Conservatoire. One spring day, he took his motorcycle to the Zentralfriedhof, or Central Cemetery, to visit the graves of famous musicians who were buried there. As he walks through Gate 2 he hears music. When he comes to the cluster of musician’s graves, he finds the tall headstone of Ludwig von Beethoven and it dawns on him—it’s Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, but it’s being played backwards!
Spooked, he hurries out of the cemetery. He has to tell someone, and that someone is his roommate, another student at the Vienna Conservatoire, Jeff. Jeff is totally not believing this story, so the two of them hop on Pete’s motorcycle and head back to the cemetery. When they get to Beethoven’s grave, they hear music, but it’s Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. And, just as before the piece is being played backward.
“Holy Ludwig!” Jeff exclaimed. “We’ve got to tell Professor Schnittlinie about this.”
The Professor is skeptical, but the young men are earnest and insistent. Finally he agrees to hop on his motorcycle and meet them at Gate 2 of the cemetery. He doesn’t even have to visit the grave itself to notice that the Fifth Symphony is playing—backward.
“Guys,” he tells Pete and Jeff, “you were right. That music is a symphony by Beethoven being played backward. And Pete first heard the Ninth Symphony, and the two of you together heard the Seventh Symphony, and now we’re hearing the Fifth Symphony. Clearly the pieces are being played in the reverse of the order in which they were played. But, I confess, beyond that I have no idea what is going on.
The next day word has spread among the students at the Vienna Conservatoire and a large group has gathered around Beethoven’s grave, where his Second Symphony is playing backward.
One of the caretakers of the Zentralfriedhof, Emil, walks up to the group.
Pete is there and seizes at the possibility of an explanation for the eerie phenomenon. He asks Emil the caretaker, “What’s going on? Do you hear that music?”
Emil answers, “Oh, never mind that. It’s just Beethoven decomposing.”