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Steve Reich – Different Trains


In his piece "Different Trains" Steve Reich uses sound recordings of noises that typically occur at a train station, such as train announcements: "from Chicago to New York" or the sounds of a departing train. These recordings are accompanied throughout by a four-piece band/orchestra with string instruments, such as a violin.

As soon as a new voice comes with the announcement of a new train, the beat and the style of playing of the band changes. More precisely, the band's playing changes first before the new announcement follows. At the same time, the speed of the pieces changes depending on the commentary of the people. With this the band brings additional tension. From minute seven a small chronology begins starting with 1939 up to 1941 and back again to 1940. This all seems to be related to the second world war, which is also confirmed by the following statements. Like "The Germans invaded Hungary" or "Black Crow's invaded this country". This and other comments within the musical piece, "War is over" or "Are you sure?", indicate that the second World War is the main subject. Trains were not just used to transport war equipment but to transport prisoners to the deadly camps. So different trains had different meanings for their passengers.

The piece has a very minimalist and classical touch through the use of string instruments.  It tells a story, that of the second world war, which is why the band changes its playing style after each comment and thus builds up more and more tension from the middle part of the piece on. But this changes again in the course of the piece, when the comment "The War is over" is heard. The interplay of the string instruments sounds directly much friendlier and calmer and should reflect the end of the war in the form of music. 

A very interesting piece that takes you on a journey through time and the band simply plays incredibly well, one of the pieces I liked the most at the Listening Reports.


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