Eric Hofbauer Jazz Guitarist / Composer / Educator

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Music as Memory: 9/11, American Vanity and Fear

During this week of remembrance and reflection I would like to share two pieces from my American series. Of all my work, my two solo albums have been most influenced by the events of September 11th, 2001. In the wake of the tragedy of that day, I recorded American Vanity, an exploration into what I believe was the source and reason for the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Several years later, as America was mired in two wars, debt, and domestic economic trouble I recorded American Fear.

“American Eulogy” from American Vanity, is perhaps the most obvious tribute to 9/11, it is a soft, bittersweet and spacious ballad which uses contrasting tonal centers and harmonies in an attempt to capture the process of memory flowing from melancholy to happiness and back again.

“Twenty Questions” from American Fear, is not inspired by the children’s game. Instead, this slinky, minor and biting melody is a musical rendering of the Patriot Act and/or wire-tapping. There is a feeling of someone snooping around in this piece while at the same time the groove chugs along, allowing the melody to do its thing because is it ‘necessary’ to our safety.

This week has been full of tributes, analysis and stories about the last ten years. I have come across everything from touching stories and memorials to tough criticism about how America failed to change post 9/11 or how much these long wars have cost us as a society and culture. It is not my place to weight in on all that with my opinion, instead it is my hope that the music can serve as a memory and help those who care to listen reflect about the last ten years in their own way. Leonard Bernstein said in his Norton Lectures that art is born of great loss or of great protest. 9/11, and the ten years that followed, were filled with both for me. It is my humble hope that these tracks, and albums, have captured the loss and protest and they can serve as a fitting tribute or documentation of a time in my, America’s, and humanity’s history.

My final solo recording, to complete the triptych, is tentatively titled American Grace. I optimistically look forward to finding my inspiration in an America full of it.

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