World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Desert Music

Article Id: WHEBN0000656042
Reproduction Date:

Title: Desert Music  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Choir
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Desert Music

The Desert Music is a work of music for voices and orchestra composed by the minimalist composer Steve Reich. It is based on texts by William Carlos Williams and takes its title from his poetry anthology The Desert Music and Other Poems. The composition consists of five movements, and in both its tempi and arrangement of thematic material, the piece is in a characteristic arch form (ABCBA). It was composed in 1983.[1]


The piece is scored for a chorus of 27 voices: nine sopranos, and six each of altos, tenors and basses. It calls for a woodwind section comprising four flutes with three doubling on piccolo, four oboes with three doubling on cor anglais, four B clarinets with three doubling on B bass clarinet and four bassoons with one doubling on contrabassoon.

The brass section comprises four horns, four trumpets with one doubling on optional piccolo trumpet, two trombones, a bass trombone, and one tuba. The percussion section is characteristically extensive, comprising two timpani, both doubling on rototoms, two marimbas, two vibraphones, two xylophones, two glockenspiels, maracas, sticks, a pair of bass drums, and a medium gong.

Two pianos, played by four musicians, comprise the keyboard section, and the strings (12-12-9-9-6) are broken into three sections of (4-4-3-3-2) seated by their section with the first set of 16 players stage right, the next 16 center stage, and the last 16 stage left.


Fast Tempo (quarter = 192 in 4/4 time)
Moderate Tempo
Slow Tempo
Moderate Tempo
Slow Tempo
Moderate Tempo
Fast Tempo

The tempi between two sections are related by a ratio of 3:2, introduced at the end of each section by either tuplet or dotted rhythms, respectively. So, I and V have 192 bpm; II, IIIB, and IV have 128 bpm; IIIA and C have 85 bpm.

Sections I and V have the same harmonic structure, sections II and IV have both the same harmonic structure and the same words. Sections IIIA and IIIC have the same words.

Relation to other Reich pieces

The piece opens similarly to many other Reich's own works: a piano or mallet instrument pulsing on the beat, with another piano or marimba soon fading in on the offbeats (Music for 18 Musicians, Sextet, Three Movements for Orchestra). Also characteristic of several of Reich's pieces, such as New York Counterpoint, Electric Counterpoint, Sextet, Music for 18 Musicians, Three Movements for Orchestra, the exposition of the pulse is followed by pulsed notes in the choir and orchestra fading in and out over the course of a chord progression. Also, the first movement prominently features a repeated rhythm found in several of the aforementioned works:

Twice in Section IIIC, the strings begin playing a slightly modified section from Reich's New York Counterpoint.


This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.