Analysis of 'Desert Interpolation 1' - Edgard Varese

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Analysis of ‘Desert Interpolation 1’ – Edgard Varèse

Déserts is a soundtrack piece to a modernist film, composed by Edgard Varèse, also known as “the father of electronic music”, during 1950 to 1954. Varese began composing this piece upon the gift of an Ampex tape recorder and it soon became the first work to use recorded sounds. It is a landmark creation that had a great influence on the post World War II composers. However, its premiere, on 2 December 1954 at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, was not well received by the public. This performance was part of an Office de Radiodiffusion Télévision Française (ORTF) broadcast concert, where the audience were mainly conservative listeners, awaiting a performance on pieces by Mozart and Tchaikovsky and did not expect Déserts to be wedged in between the classical pieces. It received a caustic reaction from both the audience and the press and this nearly caused the withdrawal of funding for Pierre Schaeffer’s studio of musique concrète. Moreover, Varèse was never asked to work in France again.

The title of the piece already notes the intentions and ideas Varèse wanted to put across. He was expressing that man can travel to anywhere in the world physically and also emotionally, to reach the point of solitude.

"not only physical deserts of sand, sea, mountains, and snow, outer space, deserted city streets...but also distant inner space...where man is alone in a world of mystery and essential solitude." [1]

All those that people traverse or may traverse: physical deserts, on the earth, in the sea, in the sky, of sand, of snow, of interstellar spaces or of great cities, but also those of the human spirit, of that distant inner space no telescope can reach, where one is alone. - Varèse [2]

Déserts is a 3 minutes 21 seconds long piece, arranged for 14 brass and woodwinds, 5 percussion, 1 piano and electronic tape. The instruments were categorised according to timbre and pitch range. The winds each form...
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