American Music Center’s 9/11 Project Shows How Composers Responded to the WTC Attacks
While the political arena has chosen to respond with aggressiveness and violence, a generation of composers has sought refuge in what they know best—their art.
Like the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that set off World War I, the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or the explosion of the Challenger, the attack on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 is an event that has been burned into the American psyche. A moment that redefined an era, the September 11th attacks continue to impact the everyday lives of Americans. And while the political arena has chosen to respond with aggressiveness and violence, a generation of composers sought refuge in what they know best—their art.
Begun in May 2003, the 9/11 Project from the American Music Center (AMC) has already collected information on nearly 200 works written in response to the attacks. A list of the works collected thus far is available through the American Music Center’s online virtual library and listening room, NewMusicJukebox. In order to access the list, users must log in (registration is free) and use the Advanced Search function. Selecting “Search by Ensemble” and the typing in “9/11” (without quotes) into the Keyword field, yields the works that have been catalogued. Information on instrumentation, duration, year of composition, and whether the work has been premiered is included with each entry.
From John Adams‘ Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral work, On the Transmigration of Souls, to Alex Shapiro‘s haunting percussion work At the Abyss, and James Adler‘s soulful setting of Whitman called Reflections Upon a September Morn, the list represents a diverse group of composers who transformed their personal experiences on 9/11 into musical works.
The project is ongoing and by no means exhaustive. Through NewMusicJukebox, American members of the AMC can upload information about their own pieces that were inspired by 9/11. Those choosing this option need to include “9/11” (no quotes) in the Keyword field when posting the work. Nonmember American composers interested in having their works become part of the list should contact the American Music Center’s Information Services Department via e-mail or telephone (212-366-5260 x11).