Steve Reich changes controversial album cover; artists still tiptoeing around 9/11 sentimentality

Steve Reich changes controversial album cover; artists still tiptoeing around 9/11 sentimentality

Remember September 11? No? Well, a lot happened that day, such as the release of Slayer’s God Hates Us All and an unprecedented act of terrorism on the World Trade Center. Many Americans responded with a great deal of misdirected anger, and thus the music industry came under (almost) as much fire as Islam (I may be exaggerating). For example, the album cover for Dream Theater’s Live Scenes from New York, featuring a burning New York skyline, was pressured to be changed. Political hip-hop group The Coup’s Party Music, which depicted group members in front of the towers detonating an explosion, delayed its initial release date due to the uncanny similarity to the true event that took place just days prior. On a side note, MTV also started playing music videos again for a few days, like U2’s “One,” and the whole thing was just a mess.

Ten years later, patriots are still preoccupied with sniffing out musical controversies, those both accidental and intentional. Recently, everyone’s favorite Mogwai derivatives Explosions in the Sky stirred up some star-spangled angst in Boise, Idaho with a concert marquee stating “Explosions in the Sky […] September 11th.” And now even American minimalist pioneer Steve Reich is receiving criticism for the cover art of his upcoming release of WTC 9/11 on Nonesuch, featuring Reich’s 15-minute composition for string quartet and tape in honor of the 10th anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. The album cover (pictured above) was the object of intense debate for several weeks, and in an official statement, Reich finally succumbed to critical pressure, explaining, “I want to thank Nonesuch for backing up my original decision about the cover and for backing up my decision now to change it so we can put the focus back where it belongs, on the music.”

Unlike the previous offenders, Reich’s album art had no intentions of controversy nor political statement. Having lived only four blocks away from the tragedy in 2001, the composer has stated, “For us, 9/11 was not a media event.” Such can explain the concept of this tribute and its gloomy cover art: sincerely affected. Plus, it’s not like many Tea Party members would have been so disappointed that they’d sell all their copies of Drumming to pawn shops and vow to only support true patriots like John Adams and Phillip Glass. But alas.

WTC 9/11 will be released via Nonesuch on September 20. Cover art TBA.

• Steve Reich:
• Nonesuch:

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