Dream Score: The Sounds of Steve Reich

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The Tiger Within team has fallen in love with the sound of composer Steve Reich, and we hope to be able to incorporate his music into our film.

Steve Reich (born October 3, 1936) is an American composer who helped pioneer the style of minimalist music. He is famous for incorporating historical themes, as well as  his own Jewish heritage, most notably in the Grammy Award-winning Different Trains.

Reich has been described by The Guardian as one of “a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history”, and the critic Kyle Gann has said Reich “may…be considered, by general acclamation, America’s greatest living composer.”

Tiger Within revolves around Samuel, a Dachau survivor, and his relationship with a young runaway who is unfamiliar with the history of the holocaust. In many ways the strength of their friendship is built around the important lessons etched in our collective history by concentration camp survivors. Lessons about the dangers of hate, and the importance of tolerance and love.

Reich’s Different Trains (1988) was described by Richard Taruskin as “the only adequate musical response-one of the few adequate artistic responses in any medium-to the Holocaust”, and he credited the piece with earning Reich a place among the great composers of the 20th century.

As a child in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s, Reich shuttled between his separated parents—one in New York, the other in California.  In Different Trains, Reich juxtaposes his memories of those childhood train journeys with trains transporting contemporaneous European children to their deaths under Nazi rule. Years later, he pondered the fact that, as a Jew, if not for the mere luck of his American birthright, he might have been traveling in very different trains.

The Kronos Quartet recording of Different Trains was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition in 1990. Iconically, the melodies of the piece coalesce around spoken recordings. Those speech segments are lifted from interviews with people in the United States and Europe about the years leading up to, during, and immediately after World War II. Each melody in the piece is introduced, usually by a single instrument, and then a recording of the spoken phrase that engendered the melody. The piece also includes recordings of train sounds, sirens and evocative warning bells.

To feature the music of Steve Reich would be a dream for the Tiger team. Like the story of Samuel and Casey, it has a beautiful eeriness to it, a haunting urgency that drives a soulful message. We will be reaching out to Mr. Reich shortly, and look forward to keeping you posted on how the dialogue progresses!

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