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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



different trains

part four - dynamic contrast and conclusions



Dynamic Contrast

There is very little discernable dynamic change in the individual levels of the instruments or samples. However, what Reich has done is to alter the amplitude of a passage by increasing or decreasing the amount of texture. The first movement contains numerous examples of a steam engine whistle, interspersing the text and serving to heighten the drama of the documentary. We first hear this whistle in the opening instrumental passage of the first section, rising in pitch from the notes A to C:-

Different Trains ex 2

Note the authentic nature of the sound, - perhaps its two staccato quaver notes signify the arrival of the steam train. The "live" string quartet are also employed to alter the dynamic level of the pre-recorded ensemble, often creating energetic crescendos (such as "into those cattle wagons" in the second section) and subtle rhythmic interplay (for example, the delicate closing motifs of the third movement).



In summary then, Reich draws many musical elements together to form a synthesis of expression. For although “Different Trains” contains a multitude of rhythms, the work is bound together by texture, harmony, and carefully placed tempo changes. This, together with Reich's love of repetition, allows for powerful coherence in a sound world full of complexity. I believe this work takes us to a new plateau, for it causes us to perceive Reich's experiences, along with the persecution of certain Jewish individuals, on an immediate, documentary level. This could only have been achieved through the emerging technology of sound sampling. Furthermore, it reflects a sound world where electronic, acoustic and live performance are in a state of equilibrium. Reich employs a balance of textural forces - he has always refuted concerto form (in Signals, Channel 4, broadcast on October 26th, 1988. Here, Reich discusses concerto form with reference to "New York counterpoint"{1985})

"Different Trains" points us to an era where all voices are respected, each and every individual has a statement to convey, and a story to tell.



Griffiths, P. "A Guide to Electronic Music", Bath: Thames and Hudson, 1979.

Leppert, R. and McClary, S. (Editors), "Music and Society” Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987

Pears, D. "Wittgenstein", London : Fontana, 1971

Reich, S. "Writings about Music", Halifax (Canada) : The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1974.

Sadie, S and Latham, A. (Editors) “The Cambridge Music Guide”, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1985.

Wittgenstein, L. "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus", London : Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1921 (1981).


Newspaper and Magazine Articles

Bowen, M. "Different Trains", The Guardian, London : October 1988.

Cowen, R. "Reich and Wittgenstein : Notes towards a synthesis", Tempo, London : Boosey and Hawkes, June 1986, No. 157.

Kenyon, N. "Phased in ", The Listener, London : 26th June 1986.

Morris, P. "Steve Reich and Debussy : Some Connections", Tempo, London : Boosey and Hawkes Ltd, March 1987, No.160.

Nyman, M. "Steve Reich", Music and Musicians, Portsmouth : Holbrook and Sons, January 1977, Vol. 25, No. 5.

Potter, K. "Steve Reich : Thoughts for his 50th-birthday year", The Musical Times, Sevenoaks : GB Novello and Co, January 1986.

Schwarz, R. "Maximising minimalism", The Listener, London : 25th July 1985.

Thaler, L. "Eisenbahnspiele "Different Trains" von Steve Reich in Koln", Neve Zeitschrift fur musik, 1986, vol.150, 2.




different trains p.1 - p.2 - p.3 - p.4


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