Steve Reich is a legendary composer who was one of the pioneers of minimalism. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Music, and the New York Times called him “America’s greatest living composer.” I had the incredible honor of getting to speak to Steve Reich about his piece Different Trains, written for string quartet and pre-recorded performance tape. It was first performed in 1988 by the Kronos Quartet, and they released a recording of it in 1989, which won the Grammy for Best Classical Contemporary Composition. Different Trains is a piece about World War II and the Holocaust. It’s made up of three movements: America – Before the War, Europe – During the War, and After the War. For this episode, Steve Reich breaks down the first movement, which was inspired by his own childhood experiences.
For more, visit songexploder.net/steve-reich
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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Steve Rash, is a composer who is one of the pioneers minimalist. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for music and then your times called them America's greatest living composer. I had the ink.
But above all, on her of getting to speak to Steve Rash about his peace, different trains, which was written for string quartet and prerecorded performance day. Different trains was first performed in nineteen. Eighty, eight by the chronic quitter.
they released? A recording of it in nineteen, eighty nine, which won the Grammy for best classical contemporary composition. Different cranes is a piece about World WAR Ii and the Holocaust is made up of three movements: one America before the war to Europe during the war and three after the war.
This episode Steve Rush breaks down the first movement, which was inspired by his own childhood experiences.
My name is Steve Rice, the first
Things of different trains happened where they offer from the Kronos quartet to write them a piece. The Kronos quartet is a string quartet
it started in the early seventies by David, Harrington and other positions in the this Septica Bay Area there.
Specialty by far is new music, the importer
What a background here is that a nineteen sixty five and sixty six, I did to tape pieces. One called
It's going to rain, which is the first piece that was ever recorded in mine and then come out. I had to like open it.
who's up and let some of the bluest blood come out to show them the pieces were about.
Daniel Hamm, the kid whose voices on come out that I had to like when the boots.
And that some of the booze I'd come out to show them better idea than come out to children come out to shooting come on. He showed him come out to show them come out to show them come out to show them come out to show them.
but in you know in in nineteen eighty seven about then very
you sit in this new sampler keyboard.
I was discussing all this with my wife at the video artist
and she shall use a sampler with for the Kronos peace. I say: well,
great idea, but
Actually, no idea, you know what am I sadly so then I just three trips that I took as a child popped in my head.
when I was one year or two years of years up to about five or six, I took cross country trains with by Nanny Virginia, whose will act as my mother,
Ten years of my life, my mother, who was a singer and a lyricist, and my father, who was a lawyer, managed to be
Married for one year- and
born thirty six in nineteen, thirty seven they divorced. My mother went back to L A where she was from a father's day
in New York where he was from, which meant I'd spent six months with one in six months, with the other
Well, there were three thousand miles apart in those days you didn't fly unless you were, if a millionaire, so
Five years of my life was six months here. Six months they train trips, both ways so
it was great to look out the window and see cowboy country and then go back and see the New York and
Would he and the train, which is a very that was so? Are you going to die
Vanguard university tablecloth
civilized travel, but you know it was a very complex part of my childhood.
And then, all of I don't know years that I do this
one thousand eight hundred and thirty nine one thousand five hundred and forty. Ninety four,
what was going on in the world. While I was riding these train- and we all know.
what's going on in the world is that there's? Mr Hitler was trying to take over the world and he was great.
Every Jew and every jewish kid, and I thought there, but for the grace of God go, I I was born in America and if I had been born in Europe,
This implies emblazoned in my mind, different trains, so I first thought was held
revisit that the sound of the train do the train, whistles and an
Virginia's voice. She had a very melodic voice for a woman in her 70s, so I
I ordered a Virginia, whose idea, different time to time. I had a Sony Walkman pro tape, recorder running
and I said like where the records year, when I said I'm going to make a pizza and she you know she's assault.
That's crazy, but why not? If he wants to do it, so I
good record, a number of our conversations, how many of which centred around reminiscing about these strange drips, which is something we share, different trains ethic down, and then I thought I need to find opponent.
In the nineteen, thirty and forty six payment,
Would you know general
I be the concierge, if you like, of the train when
Martin Luther king was coming up one of his important.
I was a Philip Randolph who was the head of the Pullman Porters Union and he.
send a large and important part of the black community and so the Pullman porters as a group we're formative force and the civil rights movement. So
I was able to travel gonNA to Washington DC and meet with large Davis. It was a retired Pullman Porter on these transcontinental trains and he was glad to speak about the old days.
The crack train from New York that melodic characters to his voice, grabs me and what
It was start playing the back and when I got something I ran it through. The sampler, the correct
and from New York New York. The criteria for selecting a particular speech fragment basically was two things.
To be musical and it has to be meaningful and turns out
was a line of that it starts off with a from Chicago to New York from Chicago to New York from Chicago some Chicago to New York, it's Virginia
Now that's very emblematic of, like is kind of like all aboard in oh she's, talking about a trip to too well known cities that everybody knows, but it's the damp but eight I am but Inga about it.
her speech melody. It says this is a keeper, that's
where the music from different trains comes from.
basic idea was string,
instruments are going to double the speech melody time, but it s a flat f.
so I would be sitting here with a typical airplane. Back
the pencil in my hand and music notebook, my hand, a keyboard, to check the speech melody
and that's going to be the be all of the other, gives it a little bit more weight than a violin and the villa
That is Virginia. Oh here's Virginia from Chicago
from Chicago to New York? And then Mr Davis was double by the cello,
later on from Chicago to New York,
comes back as far by in nineteen, thirty, nine or ten yards enlightened tearing out and all of a sudden. The date of the whole piece is clear night entailing might entail.
three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine one thousand nine hundred and thirty nine
and he's thirty, nine, nineteen, forty nineteen, forty one, nineteen, thirty, nine, thirty, nineteen, thirty, nine nineteen, thirty nineteen, forty nineteen, forty, four nineteen, forty thirteen, forty four nineteen, forty nineteen, forty four nineteen, forty nineteen, forty one and then Virginia says: nineteen
Forty one. I think it must have been nineteen forty one. I guess it must depend and she's thinking at the beginning of world war. Two nineteen point one. I guess it must have been two
piano lessons as a child didn't get very far. I later became trained as a drummer, and a lot of my music is very progressive.
our different range is gonna progressing and it was very but in fact it has a very basic drumming rudiment called a paradox:
which is the locomotive and and I'll just go on a table over here, left right, left, left right left right right.
struck me in my head is a drummer business.
The engine. That's going to drive this piece
David Harrington playing the first violin and Jon Jon Renau playing the cello and you're playing the parrot is like crazy. A lot of the writing throughout the piece
His various forms of the pair of them,
players kind of got into it:
the besides the string quartet and the human voices you hear trained, SAS, particularly train whistles
I lived in lower Manhattan, not too far from a record store for Jnr
and I went over there while I was just beginning the piece and I started browsing and lo and behold they had a section called train, sounds believe it or not. So I bought it. I remember
I called trains in trouble. The train whistles in America are
perfect forests or fifty noticed the wide intervals at you know hey. While on a long
Okay, now we're going to add these other sounds and we're going to mess with them in the computer to we get them to really work with the strings and voices
New York, to LOS Angeles from New York, New York from New York, to LOS Angeles from New York, New York from New York, to LOS Angeles from New York from New York speech, melody, which is something that happens. We don't.
get back the way. I speak the way you speak the way, my nanny Virginia. The way Mr Davis speaks. He is as in
indicative of who they are has a photograph. Some would say, is more revealing the crack chain from me all at the fastest train,
but I realized that everybody would be speaking in a different tempo, because when you speak, you don't think about what you are bound by Bob. I take it now. He s not the way it works you to speak, but when
you, make a loop out of it,
bomb buddy habitable. Some shit. Poverty are ok,
and then you're going to go to one of the fastest trains planet, the fastest train de da de Da Da Da Da Da, it's faster,
unrelated? It's not like well twice as fast already are triplet equals. Forget it it's just another temper
How are musicians going to play with this?
they can go from one section to the next, a lot of people, you know will say
Hey man put about your computer and slow
from their respective until he gave them on the same temper. But it's like saying take
The people who were like your mother, who are upright
representative of the black community in the nineteen 1940s and just sort of
fix him up. That just seem like to be my stomach churn
but if the basic idea was
bring instruments are going to double the speech. Melody.
When you better figure out how it works so
the solution. What makes the performance of the peace possible backing track? Different trains was written for a string quartet
perform live, but, along with the live instruments, there are additional prerecorded layers that play at the same time. So the Kronos quartet had to record those parts before they could ever play at life. So you, here between
twelve and sixteen string players. Would you actually read the recording and when you're hearing a live performance and the recording was going to Russian Hill studios in San Francisco and
first couple of days, we just me and the engineers working out two different click tracks, so first that buddy that occurs figure out that some shit, parliament
put their quarter and articles whatever it is, and then it shifts to another number plot of the fastest times. So musicians come in. They hear, let's say two bars of the tempo for the very first thing, and they play the first part.
now you gotta go to the next fragment
So you re wind the tape a bit and you switch over to click track, be which is at the other tempo positions for under headphones a year again, but that that and the rough on a new temper ass manner.
It's masters who boreas Borja and I mean the boards with a capital l. These different sections are
and then put together an hey they work ass. I had built my whole musical life on multiples of exact, same instruments play
against themselves in Canada or in some kind of imitative counterpoint. So what interested me was the kind of web of sound that's created by inch,
image of the same timbre enter.
walking anywhere, where you don't know who's doing what and you
get lost in his larger fat.
and various things in the fabric pop out to you as a site
to acoustic reality. You know we can't predict, but they're really there and
it also enables you to thicken the plot musically to make richer harmonies more complex rhythms, more
as to the voices in the counterpart of texture of the music?
in the recording studio. I heard first one layer,
especially at the second, the
both those back. When you add the third
The galaxy has
Five part and the voices
enlighten three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine, three thousand nine hundred and thirty, nine, three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine, three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine, three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine, three thousand nine hundred and thirty nine
four dubbing fest, I mean
we're, not the Beatles or anything like that, but I mean hey, you know we had sex
Jackson. They only had for the backing tape and the finnish reporting came
I exact same so we are hearing in the studio, the finished piece, and this was really exciting. The second and third movements of different
brains, shift their focus away from Steve, Reisch experiences in America and turn to Europe in the Holocaust. For those movements he sampled voices of holocaust survivors
The original idea for the piece was just
me ever Junior Mr Davis,
and then, when I started thinking about the times that I'd actually made these ships a holocaust came to mind because I could have been a part of it. I was the same age. So I do there was an archive of Holocaust survivors recordings at Yale. Just happy people talk about their experiences in Auschwitz and other camps.
and that you know was a pretty intense experience to sit up there and some
library at with it, with headphones on your
into one incredible thing. After the other and copying that off and onto tape, can I ask you why you chose to discuss the first movement for this episode and not the second or third movement? I think I get choreographed a lot, a lot of
used by dancers and occasionally not very often, but occasionally they wanted to different trains. And I specified to the publisher. I said they want a car graph. The first movement is fine, but not the second or third movement.
and I feel that the use of the Holocaust survivors voices was a p.
Decision, and that
a control, the music, and when it comes to dealing with the Holocaust, I feel like it just
It works. The way it is leave it alone,
I was a touring musician for forty years with my own ensemble and part of my ensemble was a string quartet and whenever we did a concert, different trains was the last piece on the program and that's where it goes. I mean it's. The anchor trains, different trains, different trains.
What are you feeling right now, as you listen to this? Well, happily, I moved a good piece really can't be judged. Until years later I mean
isn't just hearing Virginia and the memory of her personally, it's how everybody in the piece demanded deserves a perfect.
Say how do I know whether anybody would like a piece of music of mine I dunno. So what have I got if I'm almost moved to tears? Maybe you will be too and in a number of cases has proved to be the case and I feel blessed because of the different trains, trains and now here's different trains, movement, one America, before the war by Steve, rash in its entirety,
fastest fastest fastest, fastest, fastest, fastest, fastest fastest runner, the fastest train,
Goodnight goodnight goodnight in three thousand one hundred and thirty nine in like it's everywhere,
one thousand nine hundred and forty what four thousand one hundred and nineteen four thousand one hundred and forty one
more visit song, exploder dot net you'll find links
the stream or download different trains. Steve race also has a new book out called conversations in it. He speaks to other artists like the late Stevenson, Home Johnny Greenwood from Radiohead Brian Eno and David Harrington
the Kronos quartet, among others, there's a link to the book on the song exploder website, as well, thanks to square
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Transcript generated on 2022-03-27.