Music Reviews
WTC 9/11

Steve Reich WTC 9/11

(Nonesuch) Rating - 5/10

Steve Reich, who just turned a very youthful seventy-five, is often regarded as one of the chief composers of Minimalism. His compositions are both repetitive and transformative; they sometimes call for uncommon instrumentation to explore new timbres, and at other times, weirdly-manipulated forms of tape delay. His new work, WTC 9/11, continues his use of a technique called speech melody, which roughly involves acoustic instruments playing in sync with the pitch and rhythm of recorded voices.

Noise and dissonance aren't Reich's specialty as a composer, which makes WTC 9/11 difficult to listen to. There's very little of anything elegiac or graceful about the dissonance. There's also nothing liberating about it either, like how the Lydian Chromatic Concept freed jazz improvisation or how the 12-tone system gave way to different atonal color qualities to early 20th century classical music. Reich's music is known for how stylishly simple it is. It's certainly nowhere near what jazz is and distant from Schoenberg's expressionism, usually relying on the somewhat weightless feeling of chordal variation and harmony in a fleeting transience – a transience unlike that explored by Debussy's minor elevenths and flattened seconds. When he goes for something like WTC 9/11, – by all means a technical composition that calls for overdubbed and tedious studio work – the feeling that the conceptual aspect has tarnished the composition's listenability is made apparent, is heard.

Fortunately, his two other pieces on the record, Mallet Quartet, and Dance Patterns are nothing short of the flowery style that make Reich's music so rich. WTC 9/11, on the other hand, just sounds muddy.