Avant-Garde Composer Steve Reich Abandons Controversial 9/11 Album Cover

Avant-Garde Composer Steve Reich Abandons Controversial 9/11 Album Cover
Steve Reich's album "WTC 9/11" is now set to be released on September 20th.
(Courtesy of Flickr via vansgirl12)

Forthe album cover of Steve Reich's premiere recording of "WTC9/11," a haunting piece performed by the Kronos Quartet, the Pulitzer-winning avant-garde composer selected aphotograph shot by Masatomo Kuriya just before the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center onSeptember 11, 2001. When Nonesuch records released the image in July, animmediate outpour of disdain came from people who felt that Reich's choice wasinappropriate and disrespectful. Nonesuch listened, releasing a statement fromReich on August 11 that the cover would be changed.

"As a composer Iwant people to listen to my music without something distracting them. Thepresent cover of 'WTC 9/11' will, for many, act as a distraction from listeningand so, with the gracious agreement of Nonesuch, the cover is being changed," Reich explained in the statement. "When the cover was being designed, Ibelieved, as did all the staff at Nonesuch and the art director, that a pieceof music with documentary material from an event would best be matched with adocumentary photograph of that event. I felt that the photo suggested by ourart director was very powerful, and Nonesuch backed me up. All of us felt thatanyone seeing the cover would feel the same way."

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The album will be released with the new altered image on September 20, two weeks after the original drop date of September 6.

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Was the imageinappropriate, or are its opponents too sensitive? Reich argued that the complaints stemmed from "people who had never heard the music." Composer PhilKline called it "the first truly despicable classical album cover that I haveever seen," while Washington Post classical music critic Anne Midget defended the image:"To my eye, the original image on the cover, which was selected with input fromthe composer, clearly reflects the content of the album."

The images of theTwin Towers falling on September 11, 2001 have been a part of the world'scollective memory since that tragic day, seen on the news and in magazines anddocumentaries over the past 10 years. In a sense, to deny the album cover is topretend that 9/11 didn't happen.