Artists Respond to 9/11: Michael Stipe, Björk, Jodie Foster

Blog: 09.08.11

Thursday, September 08, 2011 - 02:11 PM

Over the last several months, Kurt Andersen has been asking guests about their memories of September 11, 2001.  Where were they that day, and did the events change their lives?  What changes have they seen in American culture?  How did it all affect their work?

For most, a creative response took time to develop — often years.

Michael Stipe, Björk, Jodie Foster, and others share how they made sense of 9/11.




Michael Stipe

R.E.M.'s lead singer remembers being in Lower Manhattan on 9/11.  He says the aftermath of the terrorist attacks gave him a deeper respect for his father, a career Army helicopter pilot who served in Korea and Vietnam. "I realized what happens when one is confronted with something so much bigger and so much more horrific than even the imagination can take you to," he remembers, "and then the fall-out from that."
(Michael Stipe on Studio 360 - May 20, 2011)



Jodie Foster

Jodie Foster spent several years of her childhood in Europe, and has spent a lot of time there since then.  She says she's surprised when people there claim that she's not "a real American."  "They say, 'You speak other languages, you travel, you are sophisticated about books' and I say, 'And that somehow makes me less of an American?'"
(Jodie Foster on Studio 360 - May 13, 2011)




The Icelandic musician was living in Brooklyn in 2001.  "On 9/11, in the space of a half an hour, this became the most patriotic place on earth," she recalls. "I remember describing to my friends on my phone that [if] I turned 180 degrees anywhere I was in New York. I would count at least 37 American flags.  So it was kind of scary for a foreigner to be here." She addresses her concerns directly in the final lyrics of her song "Mouth's Cradle" from the album Medulla (2004). 
(Björk's full interview will air in an upcoming episode of Studio 360.)



Suzanne Vega

Longtime New Yorker Suzanne Vega went to a hospital in Lower Manhattan on the day of the attacks.  "It was chaotic," she remembers.  But she tried to provide as sense of calm for her young daughter: "I remember taking her out of school, all the parents huddling together, going to the park, trying to make it as much of a normal day as we could." She's written several songs about 9/11, including "Anniversary" from the album Beauty and Crime (2007).
(Suzanne Vega on Studio 360 - May 13, 2011)



Robert Lopez

The Tony Award-winning composer of The Book of Mormon remembers being in the middle of writing the musical Avenue Q at the time of the attacks.  "It was a wonderful feeling of 'Ok, we've broken through the B.S. we're all in all the time.' But I feel like the B.S. came in stronger, way stronger, a few years later." Although 9/11 ultimately did not lead to the so-called 'death of irony,' Lopez says it reminded him to use it wisely.
(Bobby Lopez on Studio 360 - June 10, 2011)


Miranda July

Although the filmmaker, writer, and performance artist was in California at the time of the attacks, the coverage she saw on television haunted her. "One of the most heartbreaking images for me was people jumping off of the building and that some of them held hands." She remembers thinking "how right before you die, it might not matter that it's a stranger, you just want love in any form." She reveals a scene from her movie You and Me and Everyone We Know (2005) that was directly inspired by the image — watch the clip below.
(Miranda July on Studio 360 - July 29, 2011)


Video: a clip from You and Me and Everyone We Know


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Comments [3]


Thanks for the catch, D -- fixed!

Sep. 12 2011 02:44 PM

the björk song is called Mouth's Cradle, not Mouth and Cradle...

Sep. 09 2011 12:26 PM
Marc Farre from Piermont, NY

The day after the attack, my neighborhood (West Village) was a locked-down war zone, smelling of molten metal, dust, tears and devastation, and preternaturally quiet. 

I lived near St. Vincent’s and went to join the line of those seeking to donate blood. Plastered on every available surface — bus stops, pizzerias, even mail boxes — were hundreds upon hundreds of handmade flyers, with more being posted by frantic New Yorkers who’d come to the hospital to try to find their loved ones.

Those scenes — even more than the horrors I’d witnessed the day before — simply broke my heart. Along with much of my fellow Villagers, I spent long hours, days and nights, in silent and sympathetic contemplation of these pieces of paper. For some reason, these flyers reminded me of Tibetan prayer flags, flapping in the warm breeze.

And as I stood there, a simple and haunting melody was born in my head, while the words I was reading practically flew off the papers and rearranged themselves into stanzas in my mind. The next day I took off from work, booked an afternoon in the studio, and recorded this song live.

And even though our country is deeply scarred still, and seemingly half at war with itself, I still believe in the selflessness, kindness, compassion, courage and hope that I saw and felt in those early surreal, painful days.

Thank you, New York, for showing your truest greatness in those days. I know you still have it in you...

Sep. 08 2011 02:14 PM

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