To Score or Not To Score

A Curatorial Crossroads

Monday, August 29, 2011

As part of Q2's Requiem Project, we're collecting stories from the WNYC archives to augment the music stream — voices that expand upon the themes in the music, and vice versa. We've found accounts from volunteers who rushed to the World Trade Center site to help in the relief efforts, and interviews with artists who struggled to capture the enormity of the event.

At the same time, we're collecting many, many hours of music that will form the weekend's broadcast.  

As we consider how best to present the text, we've fallen into an interesting question: would scoring the text with the music honor — and maybe even amplify — the spoken word?

Of course, music brings a new and sometimes surprising depth to words — it leads us to new places emotionally. But it can also cast a long shadow. At Studio 360 (my home base), we often set personal narratives to music. But we avoid scoring poetry; the words are already musical as written and adding anything else might obscure the meaning, or alter the art.

We decided to give it a try – and we’d like your help in evaluating the results.

What do you think: scored or unscored?

Listen to it both mixes and let us know what you think in a comment below.






  • Ed Koch, former NYC mayor – in 911 Voices, 9/11/2002 (WNYC)
  • Peter Cunningham, photographer – in 911 Voices, 9/11/2002 (WNYC)
  • Gail Sheehy, author of Passages – on The Leonard Lopate Show, 9/11/2003 (WNYC)
  • Roy DeCarava, photographer – in 911 Voices, 9/11/2002 (WNYC)
  • Joel Meyerowitz, photographer – on Studio 360, 3/9/2002 (PRI/WNYC)



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Comments [6]

Ashil Mistry

Unscored. I think the documentary style speaking works. The way the majority of these recorded voices are speaking is in an almost singing style, i.e. "it makes you weep" - it's that kind of pitched/unpitched beauty of the human voice that's interesting. So I hear the music in the voices, not necessarily in the score.

Aug. 31 2011 05:55 AM
Dave Morris from London, UK

My vote is for unscored. Beautiful and haunting though the music is, the plain honesty of the raw vox pop makes a much more powerful impression.

Aug. 30 2011 05:15 PM
maria eng from long island, NY

I'd prefer unscored. The voices themselves and their nuances give us the raw data and then the pause between word and music gives space to breathe and absorb their meaning, perhaps applying memory and experience of our own, then introducing the music gives us something to reflect the words against and extract another facet of meaning. I don't particularly like linking any existing piece of music (purpose-made scores are a little different) directly with an event for the reason that you may be forever robbing one individual somewhere of their own (maybe more comforting) personal association for that music - overwriting it , in a sense - by linking it to an iconic event or idea so contrary to their particular experience which they may never be able to undo.

Aug. 30 2011 08:06 AM
Roz Morris from London, UK

I'd vote for unscored. Although the music creates an exquisite backdrop, I found it too distracting. I was listening to the music rather than the stories, harrowing though they were. But the musical choices are perfect.

Aug. 30 2011 04:20 AM
W.R. Vinovskis from Macungie, PA

My vote is for "scored". Without the scoring, it just seems like a documentary. With the music it makes it something more, something deeper.

Aug. 29 2011 07:28 PM

As beautifully as you've handled the scoring (I've listened to both versions), I come away feeling that both the voices and the music are better honored separately. Turning these compositions into a bed for these narratives, as noble as they are, after all, isn't what most of the composers will have contemplated. And somehow, I find that I like the purity of the unaccompanied voices -- I hear their own music better without the genius of Vasks and Gonashvili behind them. Nevertheless, I love the project and all the work you guys are doing on it, and will listen attentively, whatever you decide. Thanks.

Aug. 29 2011 02:48 PM

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