Steve Reich - WTC 9/11 Kronos Quartet

Here it comes : the latest album of Steve Reich, released today on Nonsuch records, and a fair contestant for the strangest story about sleeve design of the year. Not because the previous cover artwork was considered highly provocative (see it below), but because the reasons for its deletion are though-provoking.

The original cover, using the famous picture of Masatomo Kuriya
Strange thing indeed : the images of 9/11 have become part of the vernacular, and they now are icons that no one really owns. But beyond this, the image was totally connected with the work that Reich did with this piece : a reflection on chaos, violence, and how we react to it, using voices and sounds surrounding the event. Doing so, Reich is not trying to provoke anything but thinking, and certainly not a political thinking. 

Besides, it feels bizarre to know that Times can use such an image on its cover to celebrate the emotion of this moments, and by the way selling paper, but a well-respected contemporary artist like Steve Reich can't, while he truly experienced 9/11 first-hand, as he was living with his family only 4 blocks from the twin towers... 
 Is it more legitimate to write articles than to write music about 9/11 ? 

On a design point of view, the deleted cover wasn't particularly brilliant (to say the least). There was no real added value to the force of the picture (this incredible suspended moment before the second hit). The color treatment wasn't creating any emotional value (whether to soften nor to enhance the image). 

And, amusingly, the new one is much more intriguing and evocative! Even if it isn't an original idea, using a strong close-up of the dust cloud talks far better about the disorientation such a violent event can cause, and it evocates the veil of amazement that shadowed thinking when facing it.

Reich stated that he withdrawn the cover in order to have people focusing on the music, and not being diverted by the issues about this image. He is right. But long gone are the days were provocation was called about really offensive acts... and not just meditative thinking.


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