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Reich: Different Trains, Electric Counterpoint / Kronos Quartet, Pat Metheny

4.4 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Genre: Classical Music
Media Format: Compact Disk
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Release Date: 28-FEB-1989

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Different Trains (1988) will probably go down in history as Reich's masterpiece. And deservedly so. Reich's phase-shifting minimalism is made dazzlingly entertaining in Different Trains, which is scored for string quartet and digitally sampled voices that repeat bits of speech concerning trains and Reich's experience with them growing up. The sinister part here is than some trains carried Jews to death camps. That's here as well. The Kronos Quartet has also never sounded better. Electric Counterpoint (1987) has one guitar--Pat Metheny in this case-- playing to 10 pre-recorded motifs, also on guitar. You absolutely need this. --Paul Cook
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Product Details

  • Performer: Kronos Quartet
  • Composer: Steve Reich
  • Audio CD (October 25, 1990)
  • SPARS Code: DDD
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Elektra / Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000005IYU
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #35,483 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jay C. Oyster on February 24, 1999
Format: Audio CD
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.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Different Train is one of Steve Reich's most talked-about pieces. It was inspired by his personal memories of his experience as a child riding trains a lot all over the United States to visit each of his divorced parents, & also interviews he did with holocaust survivors about their experiences aboard European trains in WWII. The string quartet's job is mostly to match speech melody, & there are other trainy sounds mixed in, too. The music is very muscular, very compelling.
Electric Counterpoint is some of Reich's most beautiful music if you ask me. Each note is absolutely clear; the music changes gradually in increments with great awareness of keeping the listener never bored but always interested. The guitar virtuosity of Pat Metheny does a lot for the piece, too. For one thing, Reich finished his drafts of the music with Metheny telling him where the notes could go given the physical shape of guitars. For me, Electric Counterpoint is probably much more enjoyable to listen to than Different Trains. Wonderful music.
Different Trains is an important Reich piece to be familiar, but I'd even highly recommend this cd just for Electric Counterpoint. This cd is very high on the list of Steve Reich cd's to get.
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Format: Audio CD
I was very fortunate to hear the Kronos Quartet perform this up in Orono, Maine (at the University of Maine) the year this CD was released. Not being familiar with either Reich, the piece, or the KQ at the time, I was completely blown out of the water by the uniqueness of the idea, the emotion of the narrative, and the jarring comparison between Reich's life and the lives of so many others. Several jazz perfomers have tried similar "voice-matching" techiniques--Victor Wooten and Jason Moran, most recently--but hearing a child's message on an answering machine replayed on the bass guitar does not match the emotional impact of the narrative Reich provides. It is such an abstract notion with such concrete results. Kronos is impeccable in their performance, as usual, and they provide the flair and brass needed to pull off such a feat. I played this CD (along with Gorecki's Symphony #3) every year in my Holocaust class for juniors and seniors in high school. They are as blown away by the whole concept as I originally was. It is a technically impressive and emotionally draining experience.

Electric Counterpoint is, quite sadly, the overlooked portion of this CD for me. I am a huge Pat Metheny fan, but I look to his other CDs for his best work. I know it is my loss. . . .

Bottom Line: Whether or not you like Steve Reich and/or the Kronos Quartet, you need to give this CD a listen--it is a challenge and a delight.
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Format: Audio CD
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.
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