Music that doesn't suck, No. 22: September 11, 2001
Every year since September 11, 2001, the question is asked: Where were you when you first heard the news of the attacks? So…where were you? I remember it vividly. I was a freshman in high school in rural North Carolina; and, while the general news had been coming in since earlier that morning, it wasn’t until later (around 10am, maybe) that we fully understood the severity of the event. By that time, I was standing on the practice field for marching band rehearsal, when our band director stopped to let us know what was going on just a few states up the East Coast from us. For someone that usually has a razor-sharp memory for every piece I’ve ever played or conducted, I can’t tell you anything else about that rehearsal. It’s a total blank.
It’s often said that art imitates life, and that’s certainly true in the case of 9/11; a lot of large-scale music has been written as a result of those attacks, spanning every relevant emotion you could possibly imagine. This week, though, we’re remembering all those affected by the September 11 attacks with a simple, beautiful, reflective piece by the German-English composer Max Richter: “On the Nature of Daylight” from his album, The Blue Notebooks.
Richter produced The Blue Notebooks in 2004 as a protest against the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “On the Nature of Daylight” is the second track from that album, originally scored as a work for string quintet, but heard here in its arrangement for string orchestra. The piece is as moving as it is simple, and I believe its power actually lies in that gently unfolding, understated, simplicity. Think of it as a 21st-century Barber Adagio for Strings…they’re even in the same key!
However you choose to remember 9/11—if you are old enough to remember it at all—I hope this music moves you at least half as much as it does me.
- Richter, "On the Nature of Daylight" from The Blue Notebooks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jJO0SV19l8