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Showing 1-6 of 6 reviews(5 star). Show all reviews
on September 19, 2000
As I listen to Different Trains for the hundredth time, I reflect upon what this music means to me. I don't think I had ever experienced anything quite like it before...
It's magic, I believe... How else could something so distant and far gone come back to life through music? How else could something we all try to remove from our spoiled memories drill its way into our heads? How else could music be so powerful as to force us to admit: "it's true, it all really happened"? All of a sudden it's real, more real than it had ever been before. Holocaust, that is.
The twentieth century was the century of sight, they say... Photography, the cinema and TV have made our vision keener. This is good, no doubt, but there are counterparts. Through television, our eyes have gotten to be so familiar with death and the horrors of war, they no longer move our brains, or hearts. It all looks the same, therefore it all feels the same. Like fiction.
Steve Reich asks us not to look, or watch, or even "see," but to close our eyes and listen carefully for once... It's music, he has in store for us, but not the music we are used to... You see, art has no "ethical sympathies," says Oscar Wilde (and I agree with him). So music - perhaps art's most sublime form - should be concerned with Beauty and not with Reality. And that's the way it is, usually, and rightly so. I believe in Aesthetics, and I wouldn't want music to become a political ground. But if someone comes along who manages to combine beautiful music with Reality - or rather, to make a "documentary in music" - there can't possibly be any harm in that...
On the contrary, I believe, it can open a new channel into our hearts, pierce our recalcitrant consciences, allowing them to bleed at last. Different Trains, in my case at any rate, succeeded in doing just that. It threw History right at me, and it hurt - but oh so beautifully... It felt good letting it all out. It felt like through "hearing" my eyes could regain their power, and "see" what had always been there.
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on February 24, 1999
Having never been a major aficionado of Minimalist music, my first real introduction to it was via Godfrey Reggio's movie Koyaanisqatsi. The soundtrack to that film, by Philip Glass, was enthralling. It made me seek out his and other composer's music. As part of that search, I picked up Steve Reich's Different Trains/Electric Counterpoint recording about ten years ago. I included it, almost as an afterthought, as part of one of those mail order "buy 10 CDs for a penny!" promotions. The last thing I wrote on the order card, I remember, was this Steve Reich CD. My thought at the time was, "Oh well, I don't know what he sounds like, but it should be interesting." Guess which recording, among all of those I got through that mail order fiasco, is the only one that I still listen to regularly? You got it, Steve Reich's Different Trains. I didn't realize what I was getting. . . . It took time to grow on me. I listened to it maybe three or four times that first year. It was typical minimalist fare; repetitive sound images flowing and changing in organic patterns. It is only now, 10 years later, that I can comprehend what is happening on this CD. Somehow, Steve Reich managed to take the often starkly cold patterns and theories of Minimalism and infuse them with immense humanity. The two separate pieces: "Different Trains" and "Electric Counterpoint" are widely different in tone and intent, but work together strangely well. "Different Trains" is a combination of oversampled recordings by the Kronos Quartet, the recordings of trains, and sound bites from interviews with people who rode on trains during the 1940s. The speech recordings provide 10 or 15 simple phrases such as ". . . from Chicago to New York." These phrases provide the tonal images that are the 'melody' of the piece. The slow transition from people speaking about traveling in American trains to a sudden realization that one is now listening to Holocaust survivors speaking about trains that run to death camps is heart breaking. The second piece, Electric Counterpoint, is a massively oversampled piece built up from the recordings of the guitar work of Pat Metheny. Electric Counterpoint is optimistic, flowing, and surprisingly energetic. I heartily recommend this recording as a masterpiece of 20th century composition and performance. I listen to it at least once a month just for the shear joy it provides.
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on April 4, 2002
This is perhaps both Reich's best work and the Kronos Quartet's finest performance. Different Trains is simply phenomenal. The piece consists of short "pitched" fragments of interviews Reich conducted, with always one instrument doubling the voice on the same pitch, over a quasi-minimalist texture with a few additional sounds (train whistles and such) in the background. The subject matter is train rides before, during, and after World War II, with the middle section obviously involving Holocaust stories. Uplifting, mesmerizing, heart-breaking, this piece is a must-have. Kronos is at their best, playing with great rhythmic clarity and an unusually nice sound for them.
Electric Counterpoint is a nice addition to this disc. While it doesn't have the emotional content of Different Trains, it certainly provides an enjoyable listening experience. A reviewer below with more knowledge than I of the electric guitar and this performer has gone into greater detail.
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on July 5, 1999
The outstanding sounds of this albums makes you feel very strange. The first part (Different Trains) is a musical version of history. Is learning more about the Holocaust and the suffering of the jewish people in WWII; a story told by a mute witness of the events: the train. Electric Counterpoint is the second part of the album and it gives to the listener a moment of peace after the previous tracks. Pat Metheny's fingers dance on the strings as on every interpretation made by him. The whole composition is fabulous, Reich is one of the genious in Twentieth Century.
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on October 18, 1999
I originally heard about this CD from the Kronos Quartet's best of album: "Released," which includes "America Before the War." Although beautiful in and of itself, the true brilliance of Reich's composition comes from the juxtaposition of alternating domestic, wartime, and domestic imagery in the respective movements. I was familiar with Electric Counterpoint from samples in albums by the Orb, but the samples obviously did not retain the sensitivity of the original composition. I could not give this album a higher recommendation
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on February 17, 2004
This album is great, yep. It's neat. What are you expecting when you say things like, "for me this album just doesn't cut it." That says nothing about Reich's work. It only says that you could not connect with what he is doing. It's a shame too, because Reich does some very nice work on this album - The Fastest train, on the fastest train. It's so very entertaining - he does such a good job of putting all of that material together. Stow you tastes and opinions away then listen again - maybe you'll actually hear Steve Reich's music.
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