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Aftermath - 9/11

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Paul Thomas

on 2 February 2016

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Transcript of Aftermath - 9/11

MUSIC IN THE AFTERMATH
MU 5933 STYLES IN MUSIC
SPRING 2016

JANUARY 25
MUSIC IN THE AFTERMATH OF
SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
Nineteen al-Qaeda terrorists, split into four groups, hijacked four commercial airliners on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001
Two of the planes crashed into the two towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
The third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Virginia.
The fourth was in route to Washington, D.C. but crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers tried to overtake the hijackers.
Within less than two hours from being struck, both WTC towers collapsed.
9/11 was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history, as the events of that day took the lives of 2,996 people. More than 400 of those were NYC police officers and firefighters who had rushed to the scene and into the burning towers before they collapsed.
The events of 9/11 led to the "War on Terror." Operation Enduring Freedom in Afganistan (Oct. 2001) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (Mar. 2003) were both U.S. responses to the terrorist attacks.
On the Transmigration of Souls (2002)
by John Adams
WTC 911
by Steve Reich
Aftermath (2001-02)
by Ned Rorem
for orchestra, adult and youth choirs, and recorded text
for voice, violin, cello, and piano
for string quartet and recorded text
What are the qualities of a composition that make it music of (or for) mourning?
Requiem Mass, Dies Irae, Stabat Mater, Lacrimosa
"Rolling Requiem" - On September 11, 2002, two hundred performances of Mozart's "Requiem" were held in twenty-six countries. The performances began precisely at 8:46 a.m. local time in every time zone in the world.
Music can be seen as a simulacrum (symbolic expression) of mental functioning. Music can be composed or listened to:
for grieving
for solace and comfort
to provide a sense of belonging
to provide a sense of hope
to provide a sense of triumph over adversity
Musical characteristics of mourning music:
Steady, measured tempo
Spare thematic material
Mimetic motives and falling gestures (musical "sighs")
Ambiguous tonalities and delayed resolutions
Musical architecture projects a sense of timelessness and an ambience of spaciousness
These musical constructs evoke feelings of wistful melancholy and invite listeners to embark on an introspective or meditative journey. The listener enters "the safe holding environment provided by the secure ambience of an aesthetic structure."
Music can also express the "protest reaction" to loss through music that is wrenching, brooding, harsh, or frenzied.
Music may be too intense or too real a reminder of the loss
The Plasticity of Time
Sound is an essential part of the physical world that nonetheless lacks concreteness or mass.
In Memory (2002)
by Joan Tower
for string quartet
Mourning music can function as:
an externalization of an intolerably overwhelming internal state.
a voice that expresses the inexpressible for which spoken and written language may be inadequate, in essence speaking for the self obliterated or muted by despair.
a symbol of experiences and affects too intense or overwhelming to express directly.
Mourning music paradox:
solitary and internal,
instils a sense of external connectedness,
evokes the fantasy, creating a link to the lost object
The Tokyo String Quartet commissioned this string quartet composition in 2001. This one-movement piece about death and loss was written in memory of one of my friends, and later, of those who died in the September 11th terrorist attacks.

—Joan Tower
For 25 years we lived four blocks from the World Trade Center. On 9/11 we were in Vermont, but our son, granddaughter and daughter-in-law were all in our apartment. Our phone connection stayed open for 6 hours and our next door neighbors were finally able to drive north out of the city with their family and ours. For us, 9/11 was not a media event.
In Jewish tradition there is an obligation to guard the body from the time of death until burial. The practice, called Shmira*, consists of sitting near the body and reciting Psalms or Biblical passages...to keep the neshama (soul) company while it hovers over the body until burial. Because of the difficulties in DNA identification, this went on for seven months, 24/7. Two of the women who sat and recited Psalms are heard in the third movement.
In the wake of the September 11th shock, I asked what a thousand other composers must have asked: what is the point of music now? But it soon grew clear that music was the only point. Indeed, the future will judge us, as it always judges the past, by our art more than by our armies—by construction more than by destruction. The art, no matter its theme or language, by definition reflects the time: a waltz in a moment of tragedy, or a dirge during prosperity, may come into focus only a century later.

My need though, as I pondered this instantly and forever changed world—with the Twin Towers in ruins and the Middle East in sorrow—was to reflect the immediate through the choice of texts to be used for this project for Ravinia. A week earlier I might have opted for a whole different slant.

As a Quaker I was raised to believe that there is no alternative to peace. Perhaps it's wrong, perhaps right, but I am not ashamed of this belief. As with war, so with love. Seven decades of observation has shown that love has as many definitions as there are definers. Having lost a great love three years ago, my mood at the close of my life is one of quizzical melancholy. As to whether that mood seems reflected in these songs is not for me to say here in words. Music speaks for itself.
Modern people have learned all too well how to keep our emotions in check, and we know how to mask them with humor or irony. Music has a singular capacity to unlock those controls and bring us face to face with our raw, uncensored and unattenuated feelings. That is why during times when we are grieving or in need of being in touch with the core of our beings we seek out those pieces which speak to us with that sense of gravitas and serenity.
Music can skew, compress, expand, reverse, stop or defy time. It can provoke heightened anticipation of a future moment, induce or relax states of tension, seem to suspend time's forward movement, and evoke temporarily distant events or reminiscences from the past.
Compositions in response to 9/11
John Adams "On the Transmigration of Souls"
Joan Tower "In Memory"
Steve Reich "WTC 911"
Ned Rorem "Aftermath"
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