"Different Trains" - Terri's Song Of The Day

February 27, 2020
Steve Reich and the Prince of Wales

(Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)

It's classical day for song of the day. This is not your parents' "classical music." It's part 2 of Steve Reich's Different Trains.

My confidence in you folks is why I feel I can go outside the box with this. Your response to part one confirmed my faith in you. I don't expect you to "like" this music, or "get it" on the first couple of listens, or "say it changed your life." All I can hope for is your patience and curiosity. The fact that a lot of you checked it out I find gratifying. If you don't know what I'm talking about scroll down to last Wednesday. One of the limitations of FB, but we'll manage.

This is part two of Different Trains. The train of part one is the train across the U.S. before WWII. A time of peace. Part two is all about the "different" trains. These are the trains the Nazis used to take people to their deaths at the "camps." Part one is jubilant. Part two is intense and mournful. This video is compelling. I have shown it at Classic Encounter and in my class at Columbia. You could hear a pin drop. Even if you never fall in love with minimalist music, I think you will be moved by this performance. It is a string quart playing live with the tape loops in the remembrance room at Birkenau.

The musicians are surrounded by photos of many of the people who were murdered there. The train whistles change to sirens. The sense of adventure of travel moves to a sense of danger and grief. Reich's tape loops include the voices of some of the survivors. Next week I will tell you more about his use of the human voice. But that Violin Phase record that turned me on to Reich in 1970 was him experimenting with a repetitive violin phrase. He uses that experiment here to evoke a sense of fear and claustrophobia.

Notice how the instruments play in unison with the voices. There is so much to say about this piece. Please, just give it a try. Even if you struggled with part 1, I think this will touch your soul. I will also post the Violin Phase piece so you can see how he traveled from the late 60's to 80's. Thanks for giving it a try. And if it moves you in any way, I hope you listen more than once. You'll hear different things every time. If you weep.......I'm with you.

Related: See More Of Terri's Song Of The Day