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Steve Reich's "WTC 9/11"

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

When Steve Reich visited us back in April, he spoke about the deeply personal story behind his latest work, WTC 9/11. Today, we revisit that interview – and explore the controversy that erupted several months later when the album’s initial cover image (pictured) struck a nerve. Joining us will be Anne Midgette, classical music critic for the Washington Post.


Anne Midgette and Steve Reich

Comments [17]

Marilyn from Manhattan

Original cover is powerful and to the point. Much better. Shame to have changed it.

Sep. 08 2011 11:56 AM

Original cover is better. Why are people so sensitive?

Sep. 07 2011 11:21 PM
Jeannie from Nashville, TN

The original cover is magnificent. We shouldn't close our eyes to this. Reich used the NORAD communication and other live Jewish women attending and staying with the Jewish bodies until they could be buried.

It's reality!!!!

Sep. 07 2011 10:35 PM
Ben Sisto from Brooklyn

Agreeing w/ Ted in Atlanta. Just looking at this from a design standpoint, the new version is a lot nicer; less expected.

Given the work's title, the cloud of smoke kind of says it all? It's also going to look a lot nicer on an LP. Kind of wish there was no type on the actual cover.

Sep. 07 2011 10:34 PM

the 2nd version is more appealing aesthetically. i don't think he should have caved about the cover- the first version is startling. the redone cover is more evocative and poetic. In a way the second version glosses over 9/11 and maybe that's a bigger offense than the stark imagery of the first cover, which expresses a complete narrative. I think the people who are offended are people who can't adjust to the idea that there are many stories within any given story. they want to own all the stories.

Sep. 07 2011 07:21 PM
Paul H. Muller from Los Angeles

I've only heard some of the early excerpts of the piece, but the original cover seemed to accurately reflect the emotional power of the music. The composer gets to pick the cover art - or change it if he wishes - so no problem there. But that this music chooses to put us in the historical moment of the attack and that the first cover should hit such a nerve is evidence that we are a long way from coming to terms with the events of 10 years ago.

Sep. 07 2011 02:41 PM
brett lawrence from detroit, mi

Why are you making this a story when in August Mr. Reich publicly commented that he was removing the cover imagery based on public outcry?

Sep. 07 2011 02:41 PM
Nick from UWS

I don't like the original cover. I don't like the ego trip of Steve Reich putting his name in big letters over that image. And there are people out there whose loved ones or friends were directly on the receiving end of that airplane and would feel a jolt of agony seeing this CD in a shop or on line; seeing the last split second their loved ones were alive rubbed in their faces.. Contrary to what Steve Reich might think, artists are not the most important people in the world.

Sep. 07 2011 02:40 PM
Anette Diskin from home

Since the music produces heart pounding, it matched the original cover.

Sep. 07 2011 02:37 PM
Justine Williams from Fort Greene

I have no problem with the original image - I think it is compelling and upsetting. I am heartened by the fact that the image caused so much discomfort and discussion. That is what art is meant to do - it seems a fitting that the image caused such a range of reactions as it was meant to represent a complex and upsetting national moment. On the other hand, I prefer the image Steve Reich ended up with - it leaves more to the imagination and is somehow more provocative because of that.

Sep. 07 2011 02:36 PM
Bill from UWS

I think it's a great image. Subliminally, people may be more disturbed by the placement of the artist's name over the image. Seems to make the event subsidiary to the art.

Sep. 07 2011 02:36 PM
Sean from Brooklyn from Brooklyn

I think what people need to remember about this- something that one of leonard Lopate's guests mentioned previous to this show- that this was a public event- and so people should be able to use images of and from it whenever they feel the need to. I don't think you can limit that way images of this or any event are used- the new cover while very beautiful is simply a dumbed down version- something that seems to happen to public works all too often. It should not have been changed.

Sep. 07 2011 02:35 PM
Siouxie from Bronx

Don't like the use of the image of the burning Towers as cover art, but the musical excerpt you provided was definitely thought provoking.

The anxiety and dread of that day is beautifully translated in Steve Reich's music. I tend to reject "tributes" or "evocations" of this nature, but this is something I appreciated.

Sep. 07 2011 02:33 PM
phyllis segura from PIERMONT, NEW YORK

The original image, though accurate, is too emotional. This was proven by the reaction. Frequently memorial images are blank. In that case a blank color with type would have been soothing and appropriate. Then again the music, from what I have heard so far, is not all that soothing. There is much too much 9/11 coverage all together. The new one: just smoke makes one ask: where are the mirrors? The image/music process example does not fly. When does the process of the music within get reflected in the image on a cover be it music or a book jacket? The transfer of the same process used is not at all relevant. Homage also implies invocation. Visual invocation would be not a replication of disaster.

Sep. 07 2011 02:33 PM
ted in atlanta

I may not be qualified from down here to have a say, but I think there is a tasteful ambiguous elegance to the newer design, and just the "cloud" - so many connotations to a cloud, especially this one.

Sep. 07 2011 02:33 PM
Wayne Johnson Ph.D

Cover should have never been changed. The artist should not have given into the censorship of critics or audience.

Sep. 07 2011 02:31 PM

Listeners: How do you feel about an image from 9/11 being used on album cover? Post a comment below -- we may read it on air.

Sep. 07 2011 02:25 PM

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