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Work

Edgard Varèse

Edgard Varèse Composer

Déserts for brass, percussion, piano, and tape

Performances: 6
Tracks: 18
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Musicology:
  • Déserts for brass, percussion, piano, and tape
    Year: 1950-54
    Genre: Other Chamber
    Pr. Instruments: Brass & Percussion
    • 1.1st episode
    • 2.1st interpolation of organised sound
    • 3.2nd episode
    • 4.2nd interpolation
    • 5.3rd episode
    • 6.3rd interpolation
    • 7.4th episode
This powerfully moving work, created between 1950 and 1954, was the first piece for magnetic tape—two-tracks of "organized sound"—and orchestra. Possibly first conceived when Varèse lived in the deserts of New Mexico in the mid-1930s, it was imagined to be a score to which a film would have been subsequently made—a film consisting of images of the deserts of Earth, of the sea (vast distances under the water), of outer space (galaxies, etc.), but above all, the deserts in the mind of humankind—especially a memory of the terrors and agonies from the world wars of the first half of the twentieth century, including concentration camps, atomic warfare, and their continuing resonances. The taped music (originally planned for an unrealized work called "Trinum") primarily presents those images in three interpolations that separate the music for the acoustic orchestra—winds, brass, a resonant piano, and five groups of percussion. This orchestra part expresses the gradual advance of mankind toward spiritual sunlight. The orchestra music is built from intense aggregates of sound, rather than scales for melody, and rhythm is treated not as a continuous pulse, but as a support for the sound-form, rhythm as a vibration of intensity. Of course, this highly dramatic work, in touch with the deeper, repressed emotions of world society at the time it was created (and powerful still), caused protest and violent reactions in many concert halls. It is now recognized as an exceptional example of truly humanistic music.

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