Steve Reich is 74 years old, man. He’s seen some shit, heard some shit, lived through some wars, won some Grammy awards and Polar Prizes, and even earned himself a little trifle of a thing called the Pulitzer Prize for Music. So what if the kids are coming up from behind with their free downloads and interactive 3D webstreams and albums-as-iPad-apps and name-your-price fish n’ chips wrapped in limited-edition newspapers and whatever the hell else? Reich is gonna do what he always does, dammit: gather some stellar ensembles and put out an album’s worth of his recent compositions on Nonesuch. Suck it, Björk.
WTC 9/11 is the title of the newest collection from the experimental composer and minimalist (chillwaver) who brought us such washed-out classics as It’s Gonna Rain, Different Trains, Piano Phase, and Double Sextet. The new album’s title track (“WTC 9/11”) was commissioned for and recorded by the world’s resident group of chamber-music-badasses, the Kronos Quartet, and uses live instrumentation and tape to present a reflection on the meanings of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City from the perspective of 10 years later. The 15-minute piece first premiered this past March at Duke University and was co-commissioned by Barbican Centre, Carnegie Hall, Duke University, the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, the Phyllis C. Wattis Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Damn, that’s a badass list of backers.
In true punk rock fashion, the album will also include a couple of scrappy, off-the-cuff B-sides, including the 2009 piece Mallet Quartet performed by So Percussion and 2002’s Dance Patterns, performed by members of Steve Reich and Musicians. When asked if any of the tracks would possibly be available for streaming on Bandcamp, Reich simply shook his head, gave his baseball cap a quick tug, and disappeared into the ether while strains of Electric Counterpoint rang out, seeming to emanate from both everywhere and nowhere at all.