September 11, 2011

WHERE'RE THE CHORDS?:

First Listen: Steve Reich, 'WTC 9/11' (Anastasia Tsioulcas, September 11, 2011, NPR)

"It was like the twisted steel of Berlin, Cologne and Tokyo come to rest four blocks from where we live." Composer Steve Reich uses those words to evoke the bright and yet terribly dark September day a decade ago. In Reich's WTC 9/11, out Sept. 20, we hear not just his own compositional voice, but also -- through the use of documentary recordings -- what he calls the "speech melody" of those who bore witness to Sept. 11. They range from NORAD air-traffic controllers and New York firefighters recorded that day to friends and neighbors recalling events years later. Reich weaves the pitches and rhythms of those voices into a work of terrible sorrow and haunting power. (You can listen to Reich talk about creating WTC 9/11 as well.)


Reaching deep into the immediate chaos and accumulated pain of that day, the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer pulls out layers of meaning from the initials "WTC." They stand for World Trade Center, but they also refer to Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier -- which Reich chose not to quote directly, but rather honor in spirit.

Inspired by a good friend, fellow composer David Lang, Reich delves into the spiritual and metaphysical dimensions of another "WTC" -- the "world to come." Reich, who is immersed in Judaism, draws in the voices of women who fulfilled the Jewish obligation of shmira, or sitting with the victims' remains before burial, chanting Psalms and other Biblical passages to accompany the souls of the dead. But layers of anxiety about our current lives and time in history lurk in that phrase, as well. As Lang says at the piece's conclusion, "The world to come. I don't really know what that means."




Posted by at September 11, 2011 6:38 PM
  

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