Words And Music

The Music of 9/11 (Vol 1) contains three pieces by Kevin Malone written in response to the terrorist attacks on the USA in September 2001. The first is Eighteen Minutes – the length of time between the two strikes on the World Trade Centre. Malone’s string orchestra pumps jagged dissonances against the solo duo of double-basses standing proud in the ensemble like the twin towers. Movingly they imitate the speech patterns of phrases uttered by witnesses and radio broadcasters, so that their doh-soh-doh of the first movement mimics the ‘Holy shit!’ of an aghast New Yorker. It’s Steve Reich’s ‘it’s gonna rain’ technique without the words. The juicy jazz harmony is an appropriate Big Apple soundtrack, brash and city-like, urgent and alluring, the basses phrasing their reports like street criers. Part II involves the high harmonics of radio feedback, cold and empty in the bright autumn chill. In Part III even the ‘uh’ of the increasingly confused emergency services is turned into melody while faintly forlorn and ineffectual fire sirens pierce the counterpoint before the music coagulates surreally into a quote from Tchaikovsky. Part IV has the flavour of Barber’s Adagio, the double-basses playing at the top of their range, producing animal sounds of pitiful appeal. It’s a sobering and appropriate tribute to modern history’s irrevocable turning-point.

Requiem 77 has the real recorded voices of the air traffic controllers amid the passionate lines of a solo cellist. Glissandoing emergency warnings become part of the melodic weft as the controllers’ growing anxiety is reflected in their despairing pleas for a response from the huge Boeing 747 targeted at the Pentagon.

The third piece, Angels and Butterflies, commemorates the sacrifice of those who died in the field outside Shanksville, the mourning led by Victoria Daniels’s breathy, expressive solo flute.

The CD is neither mawkish nor exploitative, but a genuine attempt to create a meaningful art work for a moment that cannot be forgotten.

—Rick Jones