In the days and weeks after 9/11, I was appalled to see composers practically overnight turning out musical responses to those events. It felt too soon, too opportunistic. Surely none of us had even had time yet to process our complex feelings. Politicians were seizing the opportunity to show-boat, but surely artists could take a more reflective approach.
My instincts were the opposite: keep quiet, do your work, let the healing for yourselves and others start slowly as we began to understand what had happened, and how we felt.You don't write about Hiroshima the next day. It took Kurt Vonnegut 14 years after the fire-bombing of Dresden to publish Slaughterhouse-Five.
So I went back to work on my Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra. But as I composed its slow fourth movement I soon noticed the tragic tone of the music I was writing, and I realized that I was thinking about all the victims of September 11. I didn't have to seize the opportunity to "say" something about 9/11, those feelings had seized me after all.
See part of the score for his Percussion Concerto here. Hear some samples of the concerto here.
Widely recognized as one of the leading composers today, Steven Stucky was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Second Concerto for Orchestra. He has written commissioned works for many of the major American orchestras and ensembles.
Mr. Stucky has taught at Cornell University since 1980, where he serves as Given Foundation Professor of Composition. He has also been associated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for more than 20 years, and is currently Consulting Composer for New Music.