Steve Reich and the politically correct censors

Over thirty years ago I purchased a 2 LP sampler from the ECM label that had strange and beautiful music on it. The ECM label specialized in European and avant garde Jazz. The album had a little gem on it that I kept playing over and over again. That gem was a snippet from a work titled Music for 18 Musicians by a composer I had never heard of named Steve Reich. The music captivated me. It was repetitive, rhythmic, melodic and harmonic in ways that were so new to me that I couldn’t get enough of it. Needless to say, I bought the full LP (long since worn out) and have two versions of the work on CD in my collection. One of his other great works, also in my collection, is a piece titled Different Trains, that mixes tape recordings of the voices of holocaust survivors and blacks during the civil rights era, into the rhythm and fabric of music for string quartet.

Steve Reich is one of America’s national treasures, a great composer who has broken the rules and written exactly what he’s wanted to write how he’s wanted to write it. That’s why the kerfuffle that has erupted over his latest release was so surprising to me. It seems some members of the artistic left were not happy with the cover art on his latest album. Big Hollywood has the scoop on why the cover was changed and why Reich, sadly, gave in to the demands to kill the cover that was deemed inflammatory by some.

[…] The artistic community is anti-censorship right up until the second it decides it wants something censored. Then it piles on.

A little background.

Steve Reich is a Pulitzer-winning composer who lived a few blocks away from the World Trade Center when the planes hit on September 11, 2001. He was out of town at the time, but his family was home. They barely escaped, but the experience was so emotionally traumatic that it was only as the 10th anniversary of this monstrous crime approached that he was able to finally express his feelings through his art. You would think the artistic community would praise him – well, you would think that if you had not been paying attention and still believe that it possessed the capacity for shame at its own rank hypocrisy.

Reich’s composition was called “WTC 9/11.” As described by Terry Ponick at the Washington Times, it “is a short, three-part work that blends live music with the actual recorded sounds of the day’s events playing in background and foreground.” The CD was originally scheduled to be released on 9/11/11, but a completely unexpected (if you don’t understand the Left) uproar occurred.

The uproar? Take a look at the original cover photo above.

Kind of makes you think, doesn’t it? The sight of that jet being guided straight into the South Tower as hundreds burn alive in the North Tower makes you think about how 9/11 was not just some random tragedy that befell us, as if by mere misfortune or a twist of fate.

It makes you think about how it was a calculated act of murder by people who wanted to enslave or kill us, and who still want to enslave or kill us. And the artistic elite can’t let that thought cross your mind.

Slate’s Seth Colter Walls is suitably mortified that the simple image is so…simple:

Given the piece’s complexity, it is surprising to see that the first studio recording of WTC 9/11, due to be released by the esteemed label Nonesuch Records just days before the 10th anniversary of the attacks, is being marketed with cover art that looks like something swiped from Rudy Giuliani’s presidential campaign press shop circa January 2008.

Yeah, it’s surprising that was piece called “WTC 9/11” and inspired by the events at the World Trade Center on 9/11 might have a cover that actually depicts the World Trade Center on 9/11. Sorry, Seth, if it’s a little on-the-nose for you. Now go complain about poetry that rhymes.

The “controversy” – to the extent rank censorship by self-appointed guardians of the public consciousness constitutes a “controversy” – over Reich’s chosen cover art has delayed the CD’s release until the 20th. That will give the informal Ministry of Truth time to scrub away the cover image that might give rise to unapproved thoughts. […]

And that, my dear readers, is the essence of the sad, sick world we live in today.

About The Mighty Thunderer

We write about music, audio, and technology. Like the namesake of this blog, Ludwig van Beethoven, we are hammer of polite society. We will point out the absurd and educate on the sublime...
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