In my opinion, the song “Take the A Train” by Duke Ellington is an invitation in its essence. As the whole music composition is only three minutes long, it constantly seems to rush forward. This is not surprising, given the fact that this is the train song. What strikes me more is that Ellington succeeded in establishing a perfect balance between individualism and collaboration. Each part of the composition, performed by various musicians, has its own features, which are still harmoniously combined.This particular version of “Take the A Train” is a part of the movie titled “Reveille with Beverly” (1943). The train itself appears at the very beginning of the video. Therefore, it requires special musical accompaniment. As a result, wind instruments appear during the intro, providing the listeners with the sounds of a railway. Actually, these instruments create the whole tonal color in the song. Personally, I imagine a powerful machine made of steel quite vividly. The overall texture during the intro is thick because the listeners must feel the power of the engine. Also, there should be a contrast between the introductory part of the composition and the singer’s tender voice. Trumpets, trombones, and saxophones are setting the tone, and then, Ellington himself appears with his shimmering piano melody.
Being responsible for the beat of the song, bass and drums make the whole composition coherent. Although the tempo of “Take the A Train” is medium, which aims to emphasize the image of a moving train once again, the dynamics change in a certain moment. As a result, the listeners can feel that the composition’s structure is rich and lively. The locomotive’s loud whistle is replaced by the half loud piano theme. The video operator allows all the musicians to appear on the screen one by one. Finally, the listeners’ attention is focused on trumpets and trombones, and the volume gradually changes to a crescendo. Still, it only takes a moment for the music to become very soft. A singer appears and all eyes and ears are turned to the female vocal. There are only bass and drums left on. The male vocal appears instead, being an alternative to the wind instruments. The men even imitate the locomotive whistle with their voices, although much softer. When the singers start dancing, Ellington joins the party with his piano. Finally, the wind instruments come back to lead the melody to its culmination point. The variation in loudness is reasonable, as the audience needs to listen to the singer’s message.
As already mentioned above, the whole song “Take the A Train” is an invitation. I consider this to be an invitation to a better life, or to a dream. Therefore, the mood of the song is optimistic and inspiring. It refers to the opportunities that appear in one’s life from time to time. I like this mood a lot because it inspires me to say “Yes” and to stay fast. The lyrics are minimal, as the whole composition is centered more around instruments. Still, the vocals play a crucial role here, as the singer appears to be the messenger. As for me, the moment when the woman starts singing is the one when the train arrives at the station. This is the only one chance for the passengers to get on the train, and this minute should not be missed. I especially like the moment when people start dancing, as this scene represents the joy of those who are on their way to the good future. When the music goes down (the dynamics changes to diminuendo), the listeners realize that the train has finally left the station.
“Take the A Train” is really inspiring, and makes me want to dance. I would definitely listen to this song in the moments of doubt.
- Ellington, Duke. “Take the A Train.” YouTube, uploaded by Morrisoncoursevids, 8 October 2008, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cb2w2m1JmCY