“Different Trains” (Kronos Quartet)

Steve Reich’s setting of three groups of voices (“America—Before the War,” “Europe—During the War,” and “After the War”) amid repeated figures representing “different” trains implies a certain technocratic base: triumphally major and mobile in “America” as the trains race between the oceans and unite the land; clashing and discordant in “Europe,” as the Holocaust comes into view. “We” are superstructural/epiphenomenal, it appears, cut into (musical) phrases as the State-machines track our similarities and differences. So why are the genders made instrument-specific (woman = viola; man = cello)? Where do these particular differences emanate from, if not a certain technics? The error in (any form of) social constructionism is, of course, that it leaves no room for a true and legitimate point of view, even though it insists it has one. Here, it’s smuggled in, manwise.




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