Kronos Quartet

With its intense and concentrated emotional impact, it's right that Steve Reich's self-explanatorily titled WTC 9/11 turned out only 16 minutes long; it would be too draining to endure anything longer. Written for three string quartets and prerecorded voices, the 2011 piece reuses a technique from Reich's Holocaust memorial Different Trains: Melodic licks echo the rhythm and pitch contour of spoken fragments—not merely setting words, but turning them directly into tunes. But WTC 9/11 is even more a sonic documentary than the bittersweet Trains. In the first movement, which opens with a high, shrill pulsing like a busy signal or an alarm, the voices come from NORAD and FDNY radio dispatches on that fateful morning; the second and third incorporate clips from after-the-fact interviews: "Everyone was running…then the second plane hit… it was not an accident…" The third also layers in wisps of what sound like liturgical songs or laments. The Kronos Quartet, which has never relinquished its position as America's foremost new-music ensemble since its foun­ding in 1973 (in Seattle), commissioned, premiered, and recorded the piece, multitracking themselves. They'll play it again tonight alongside works by Michael Gordon, Laurie Anderson, and many others. GAVIN BORCHERT

Fri., March 23, 8 p.m., 2012

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