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Music Essays
electronic music pioneers part 1 electronic music pioneers part 2
steve reich - minimalist a short history of the american composer

Different Trains
different trains - part one introduction and the use of music technology
different trains - part two thematic development
different trains - part three thematic development and continuity
different trains - part four dynamics and conclusions
different trains - table 1 tables 1.a. to 1.c
different trains - table 2 tables 2.a. to 2.g

 


 


music essays

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This section of the website contains some of my undergraduate research in music composition. As such, it has more of an academic slant to it (if you're not too familiar with musical terms and language, you might need a music dictationary at your side to help explain some of them!)


 

Electronic Music Pioneers

The first section concerns electronic music pioneers and composers. These are individuals - inventors such as Thomas Edison, early computer music developers such as Max Matthews, or composers such as Karlheinz Stockhausen, who have significantly contributed to the development of electronics and technology in music. The first part is mainly concerned with the world of "serious" ("avante-garde") music, the second part focuses on developments in electronic popular music.

 

 

Steve Reich

Underneath this (see the navigation on the left) is an essay on the life and work of minimalist composer Steve Reich. Minimalist music is a way of composing formed from repetitive blocks (be it rhythmic cells or melodic motifs), in largely tonal harmony (unlike the serialist atonal composers of the twentieth century). Originating in America in the late 1960's, leading exponates of minimalism are Terry Riley, Philip Glass, John Adams, La Monte Young and Steve Reich. Other notable composers working in a minimalist way are British composers Michael Nyman (famous in popular culture for his films score to "The Piano", and his collaborations with director Peter Greenaway) and Sir John Taverner.

 

Different Trains

This series of articles is formed from part of my B.A. dissertation whilst I was studying for a degree at Chichester University. I was (and still am) fascinated by the interaction of technology with music. In the late 1980's, computer music "sampling" was an emerging technology, and was beginning to create new creative possibilities for composers and musicians. Steve Reich was one of the first "serious" music composers to embrace this technology, and create something truly extraordinary. "Different Trains" went on to be honoured with a Grammy Award in 1989 for Best Contemporary Classical Composition.

I've devided the analysis of the work up into a number of sections. To begin with, we shall look at the inspiration behind "Different Trains", and how Reich used and manipulated speech samples to create the piece. The next section analyses how these these speech samples recorded by Reich provide the melodic bedrock to the work, and how they are treated and developed. We also consider the role of the strings (which are both live and pre-recorded), and how they help to bring cohesion to the diverse rhythmic and melodic elements present in the speech extracts. Finally, we consider how Reich varies the musical texture to create contrast, and draw some conclusions about the work.

The articles feature music examples of the work, and a number of analytical tables which analyse Reich's "Different Trains" in terms of how the speech samples determine the harmony and tempo of the work. (Please note that I was unable to have access to the score of the work, and so I notated and analysed this all by ear. It can not be guaranteed error free!)

"Different Trains" is a masterpiece in musical innovation and construction. It is a work of great beauty, bursting with rhythmic vitality and life.



 

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