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remembering 9/11 through music

September 11, 2012

remembering 9/11 through music

Everyone has their personal memory of a major event. In order to enter adult hood in the contemporary world, everyone needs an “I remember where I was when” story. With modern media it is impossible to avoid tragedy, although before September 11, the violence that permeated the world seemed far from American shores to my young eyes. Of course looking to the past, we were attacked through war and political division, as well as created our own violence, but each generation relegates the problems of the previous generation to history, their imaginations incapable of creating upheaval in their own world.

I will never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. Growing up on the New Jer sey shore and seeing the Lower Manhattan sky line from the beaches where I was raised, the images of the World Trade Center attacks burn brightly in my memory, even today. Living in New York for six years and visiting the memorial site every year with my roommate (also from New Jersey) was my personal tribute to those who had died. But today, eleven years later, I no longer want to rehash the dark tragedy of those events, but celebrate the national and regional pride that burgeoned from the thousands of people who banded together in a group effort to recover, year by year.

Everyone has their coping mechanisms. But me, I always turn to music. Ranging from classical to Broadway to indie rock, each of these works honor not only the people who died on September 11, but the spirit of the city, the region and the country that rose above the mindless terrorism and yearned to be something more. That promise is what I now hold in my heart and what comes through the music I listen to on 9/11. Every year my list changes and grows. Today, these are the works that seemed right to me. They are New York heavy, if only because living in Los Angeles, I long for my original home and family on this day in particular.

I realize that this day happened in more places than New York and that for many, 9/11 is much larger than one city. But for me, my memories of that day will always be bound to the city that I saw every day from the New Jersey shore.

Across the country, everyone sits with their memories and commemorate the fallen. I hope these works offer you the same comfort and hope they bring to me and if not before, then now, I hope that you bring music into your life in times of need.

Cohen, “Give My Regards to Broadway” (from Little Johnny Jones)

—This song always reminds me of the “New York will survive” videos that aired after 9/11.

Kander & Ebb, “New York, New York”

—The Yankees. Frank Sinatra. What could be more New York? This song was used for a particularly moving commercial featuring all of the Broadway stars from 2001 to encourage people to return to the City.

Bruce Springsteen, “The Rising”

—My state lost 674 people in the attacks. For New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen helped heal the pain of loss and made us all realize that we would rise above the tragedy together.

The Magnetic Fields, “The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side”

—This whimsical piece brings me back to my early days in NYC. Carefree, young, enjoying life – trying to create a new city after the pain of the attacks.

Rogers & Hart, “Manhattan” (from Garrick Gaieties)

—Ella Fitzgerald’s rendition of this classic Rogers & Hart song always makes me nostalgic for home and summarizes everything that is wonderful about New York: Central Park, autumn, Broadway, the crowds, the buildings, the lights.

Billy Joel, “New York State of Mind”

—I have fond childhood memories of this song. “I’m taking a Greyhound on the Hudson River Line . . .” brings tears to my eyes every time. Perhaps I’m slightly hokey, but when anyone hurts your home town, your memories are never of the negative, but the nostalgic. The hope of what could be again.

John Adams, On the Transmigration of Souls

—The composer won a Pulitzer Prize for this piece, debuted by the New York Philharmonic a year after the attacks. I listen to it every year and think of all the families and friends who lost a loved one in an instant, but whose memories will never leave us.

Beethoven, Movement Four, Symphony No. 9 in D minor

—When the Berlin Wall fell, Bernstein performed an impromptu concert on the remains of the great symbol of the Cold War. The last movement has always spoken to me of love, freedom and the resilience of the human spirit. We may hurt each other over and over, but we have the capacity to love above all else.

Copland, Lincoln Portrait, for Speaker and Orchestra

—Unabashedly patriotic, I have always felt this piece perfectly summed up the American spirit of nationalism that surged throughout this county after 9/11. I wish we could recapture that unified pride again, but for now, the words of Abraham Lincoln remind me that no matter what, I will always remain proud to call myself an American.

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