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Poll: How offensive was the cover art for Steve Reich's 'WTC 9/11'?

August 12, 2011 |  8:45 am


The September release of Steve Reich's "WTC 9/11" has been receiving a lot of press in recent weeks, but not for reasons the composer was hoping for. Public criticism of the cover art -- depicting the Twin Towers under attack from airplanes -- has led the publisher Nonesuch to announce that it is replacing the image with a new design.

"WTC 9/11" is a piece for three string quartets that Reich composed in remembrance of the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York. The Kronos Quartet recorded all three parts for the album, which also includes the pre-recorded voices of air traffic controllers on the day of the attacks and New York Fire Department workers on the scene.

The Philharmonic Society of Orange County was one of the co-commissioners of the piece, which had its West Coast debut in April at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa. Times music critic Mark Swed wrote in his review that "Reich looks back with an unsentimental eye -- and, of course, ear."

A July article in Slate points out that the album's cover art appears to be a "radically darkened and dirtied" version of a photograph taken of the second plane just before it hit the south tower. Critics of the packaging claim that it is inappropriate to use an image of the attacks for commercial purposes.

In a statement released Thursday by Nonesuch, Reich said that "as a composer I want people to listen to my music without something distracting them. The present cover of WTC 9/11 will, for many, act as a distraction from listening and so, with the gracious agreement of Nonesuch, the cover is being changed."

What do you think about the "WTC 9/11" cover art? Let us know in our poll...



Music review: Kronos Quartet gives West Coast premiere of Steve Reich's 'WTC 9/11'

Ezra Reich talks music and his pioneering dad, Steve Reich

-- David Ng

Photo credit: Nonesuch