22. July 2011 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

The Nonesuch record label is releasing a recording of Steve Reich’s commemorative piece “WTC 9/11? on September 6, 2011. The piece is written for three string quartets, and is performed on the recording by the Kronos Quartet (making use of multiple tracking). It also features recorded voices—of air-traffic controllers, witnesses, mourners, and others.

But what’s making waves in the classical community is the album’s cover art, which features a darkened version of a photograph, taken by Masatomo Kuriya, of the moment before the second plane hit the second tower. On the one hand, the photograph is, as Nonesuch writes, “indelible.” But commenters below that post describe it as “pitifully ham-fisted,” “despicably exploitative,” “shoddy,” and even “the first truly despicable classical album cover that I have ever seen.”

You can see the artwork by going to this link, which is where the above quote was found.

So what do you think? Was the album cover in poor taste? Have we had similar artwork of anything from other horrors and atrocities?

I cringe when I see the photo. But I’m not sure if that means it’s wrong to use it. Hmm. But what if a family member of mine was in that plane or in one of the buildings? Or how about if someone wrote a requiem for a person who died in a house fire and the album cover was of that very house on fire, with the person inside? What if a work was written for a murder victim and someone had a photo of him being murdered and that became the cover art for the album? I could go on — I did, in fact, but I thought it in poor taste to put what I had written up here so I deleted it.

Okay. I think I know where I stand now. I just needed to ponder … in writing ….


  1. I was able to attend the NY premier of this piece. I think the cover art is in sync with my experience of the music. However, hearing the piece is more of an immersive emotional journey whereas the image is very jolting. It’s an interesting debate.

  2. It is, isn’t it? I continue to go back & forth, although I lean toward it not being “necessary”.