Scott Spiegelberg over at Musical Perceptions has a recent post on the longest tracks in his iTunes. His two longest are both from Bach's B Minor Mass, but my version (Gardiner's) splits out the choruses and arias into individual tracks, so nothing there is longer than ten minutes. And I have to confess, the majority of longest tracks in my iTunes remain unheard — as Scott also mentions, sometimes tracks are too long.
So the fourteen longest tracks on my iTunes are downloads for a long listening project that I've never actually had the courage to undertake: Leif Inge's 24-hour Beethoven symphony, Nine Beet Stretch. I've listened to the first track only, but the entire thing is still available for download at Inge's site. Most of them are too long to fit on a CD, coming in at 1:23:06.
Then, the next longest is Morton Feldman's Patterns in a Chromatic Field, from the Tzadik release. I've listened to this once, but I have lots of other large-scale Feldman recordings as well. (My most recent long Feldman, which I listened to this past week, was Marilyn Nonken's two-CD recording of Triadic Memories, which I followed in the score.) For a brief moment, this track was available on eMusic, but Tzadik has since removed from eMusic all tracks longer than a certain length, of which this would certainly be a prime candidate. It clocks in at 1:20:42, which is probably the limit of a CD.
Next, I keep sleep music on iTunes and my iPod, and there are a number of CD-length ambient pieces that I use for late-night listening. In this category, I have works by Austere, Steve Roach, Paul Vnuk, Rihmasto, Chris Meloche (I cheated here and joined all six CD tracks on Recurring Dreams of the Urban Myth when I imported the CD) and Tau Ceti, all of which top the 70-minute mark, and all of which have multiple hearings. These artists all use long durations to create quiet musical environments, and some of them have expressly created works for overnight performance and broadcast.
Finally, I have a number of downloads from the netlabel Webbed Hand Records, specifically in their Rain series. These works also attempt to create minimalistic soundscapes that would fill an entire CD, and I have six of them longer than 70 minutes. I would note that not all of the Rainscapes are suitable for sleeping, but they would certainly qualify for other ambient purposes. Some of them have ominous overtones that would introduce nightmares. All are freely available for downloads, and Webbed Hand is one of the more interesting netlabels that I've found. I'm listening to one of them now (Rain 3 by Djinnestan), and it's a peaceful combination of water, crickets, with some occasional drones fading in and out.
There is certainly a point where long tracks don't get heard as often. Other than the long sleep tracks, there are a lot of long songs in my iTunes that still have play counts of zero. I have some DJ mixes that I've downloaded that have sounded interesting at the time, but for whatever reason still remain unheard. I also have used iTunes to create backups for CD-R releases, but when I listen to the music, it's still through the CD-R rather than iTunes (artists in this category include William Basinski, Michael Prime, and a number of artists on the Mystery Sea CD-R label). I used to download podcasts, but stopped for essentially the same reason — other than sleeping, I don't have many occasions to listen to long musical works. Perhaps our next iTunes analysis exercise should be which tracks have the highest play counts …