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.
I remember playing this track for my Year 11 English class as a different way of representing the past and experiences. Not sure they had much idea what was going on, but it also seems, from Steve Reich’s discussion that in some ways, neither did I. It was fascinating to hear Reich talk about melding together the different tempos and melodies. It was also fascinating the effort that he went through to produce a backing track to tie it all together.