The album cover received immediate negative reactions from the public due to a highly altered photograph of the second jet heading into the World Trade Center during the September 11 terror attacks.
In fact, during the years I have been the editor of this album art blog, I have never received so many email messages from people outraged over an album cover. Two weeks ago, I predicted that the album cover would go down in history as one of the worst of all time. I can only imagine the kind of feedback that Nonesuch Records received.
While he did not apologize for the cover, Reich he stated that the cover had become a distraction.
As a composer I want people to listen to my music without something distracting them. The present cover of WTC 9/11 will, for many, act as a distraction from listening and so, with the gracious agreement of Nonesuch, the cover is being changed.
When the cover was being designed, I believed, as did all the staff at Nonesuch and the art director, that a piece of music with documentary material from an event would best be matched with a documentary photograph of that event. I felt that the photo suggested by our art director was very powerful, and Nonesuch backed me up. All of us felt that anyone seeing the cover would feel the same way.
In 1989, Nonesuch released a record called The Wound-Dresser, with a photograph by Matthew Brady of one of the hospitals that is described in John Adams' composition of that name, a piece that depicted another period of profound suffering during another terrible moment of our history, the Civil War. Should we not have used that image? Where do we draw the line?
I think the answer to Hurwitz' question is not as difficult as he would like us to think. You simply draw the line at where an album cover is offensive to large numbers of people. Imagine the album cover that I created below being released only a decade after John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Like the WTC 9/11 cover, I used an image of the actual event an applied a gloomy sepia tint. There can be no doubt that the public would have been outraged by such an album cover just 10 years after the killing.
In 1973, Kennedy's widow was still alive. The wound was still fresh. Even though the images of the event had appeared in magazines, newspapers, and on TV, it was clear that they were being used as information and not to sell a commercial product.
Certainly, a photograph taken during the Civil War would not be controversial. Everyone who was personally impacted has been dead for many decades. Even the Kennedy cover I created would not get much of a reaction these days. It has been almost 50 years since Kennedy was shot. Perhaps his daughter and other family members would be offended. However, the wound has healed for most Americans.
I am happy that Reich has decided to change the cover. I predicted that would be a likely outcome. Hopefully, the new cover will serve to honor the victims and their families.