Notes on the Programs

Wednesday, October 10, 2001
Orchestra Tech Opening Concert:
American Composers Orchestra

Concerto for Conductor and Orchestra
John Oswald

A concerto is traditionally a composition which contrasts a solo instrument with an orchestra—the one and the many. There are plenty of piano concerti and violin concerti to chose from. This may be the first concerto to feature the conductor as the soloist.

This soloist, in addition to the usual conductorial duties, is wired for sound, and has a number of orchestral quotes at his finger tips; mostly references from the standard repertoire. These quotes qualify this piece as “plunderphonic,” a term I’ve coined to categorize any music which depends on the blatant recognition of other familiar music as a way of listening to something new.

This piece was commissioned by Immersion Music and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project with the assistance of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Otto Luening

In the 1950s, Luening and fellow composer Vladimir Ussachevsky helped to establish the Columbia–Princeton Electronic Music Center where they created a landmark series of collaborative compositions for magnetic tape and synthesizer, as well as works for acoustic instruments in combination with electronic sounds. This association resulted in 20 compositions, Luening’s sole-authored works including Fantasy in Space for tape (1952), Gargoyles for violin and tape (1960) and Synthesis for orchestra and tape (1962), commissioned for the 20th anniversary of BMI. Although this is the music he is most famous for today, Luening composed a vast body of music, much of it chamber music, characterized by its accessibility and its stylistic variety. Highlights of his extensive output include a flute concertino, four symphonic fantasias, a short symphony for chamber orchestra, three string quartets, three sonatas for violin and piano, three solo violin sonatas, and a substantial body of chamber music with flute, an instrument he played professionally throughout his life. He also composed scores for Hollywood films and television.

What Goes Up . . .
Edmund J. Campion

What Goes Up . . . was written for the Tanglewood Music Center and was commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University in 1993. The piece is composed for 11 amplified instruments consisting of five spatially separated instrumental pairs framing a lone cellist. A musical voyage, What Goes Up . . .navigates an eclectic series of rising and compressing passages that lead to an anti-climax at the center of the work followed by a lengthy descent and slow release. The second half of the work is a musical palindrome where each section of the previous music is recast in the form of a surrealistic sonic landscape.

The disjointed musics found throughout the piece are balanced with a precise large-scale formal design. What Goes Up . . . is my telling of the great Western musical mess that took us through modernism and its reactions into and on to the far side of nowhere. That is the place my musical mind resides to this day, where I remain happily deluded that newly created music can be made and heard and shared without too much regard for the expanding global market economies.

In Between
David Felder

In Between, scored for solo percussionist playing a battery of instruments (featuring the five octave marimba and a KAT MIDI controller) and large chamber orchestra, was composed and realized in 1999–2000, as a commission for the 25th Anniversary of the “June in Buffalo” Festival. It is dedicated to the extraordinary percussionist Daniel Druckman, whose assistance with its fearsome technical demands have made the completion of the project possible, and to percussionists Steven Schick, Jan Williams and Michael Udow, who have contributed immensely to the piece in its various stages and incarnations. It is also dedicated to the memory of composer Morton Feldman, the founding director of the “Buffalo” Festival and my colleague and friend.

The title refers to a set of metaphors, ranging from the technical through the philosophical, important to the selection and deployment of materials used in the work. Perhaps the most overt of these is the physical model of “alternate handed-ness” so prevalent in percussion playing. This analogy saturates every level of the piece from the smallest gestures through the formal.

The realization of the KAT materials was made in the SUNY at Buffalo Computer Music Studios.

Hee Haw
Randall Woolf

When I told my father that I wanted to write a piece about square-dance callers, he reminded me that we had a 94-year old cousin living in Jacksonville, Florida, who had been a square-dancer caller and fan all his life. Cousin Sam politely refused my request to do some calling himself and instead provided me with tapes of some of his favorite callers. I made samples from the tapes, bought a copy of Earl Scrugg’s banjo instruction book, and immersed myself in the sounds of square-dance. Instead of using a banjo, I decided to write banjo-style passages for the orchestra, and accordion and harmonica passages as well. In the middle, two women croon a love song, smeared over by a thick graffiti of sampled callers. The samples have their own tempos: sometime with the orchestra, sometimes faster or slower. It all adds up to a very hallucinatory sort of barn dance, played by an orchestra and computer. At the end, the ghostly callers gather for one final outburst, and then fade out one by one, evaporating like ghosts at daybreak.

Thursday, October 11, 2001
Orchestra Tech presents.

James Mobberly

Soggiorno (Sojourn) was composed from September to December, 1989, during a one-year fellowship at the American Academy in Rome. The lifestyle at the Academy provided virtually uninterrupted time for creative work (both a luxury and a curse), with the result that the piece came to take on a life of its own; by December it was clearly exhibiting more signs of life than the composer.

Though the piece is performed without interruption, it is in three distinct sections: the more lyrical, soloistic first and third sections surround a rhythmic, energetic duo. The overall character of the work reflects, perhaps subconsciously, a kind of fatalism that is often associated with Europeans, whether the “quiet desperation” of the British, the “dolce vita” of the Italians, or, in the rapidly changing societies of eastern Europe, the hopes and fears which come wrapped tightly together in the same packages. On a more conscious level, the work reflects a peculiar fatalism of my own: the result of the clash between my naïve expectations about a year of uninterrupted, unfettered creative work, and the stark reality of the uninterrupted toil which was necessary, and is always necessary it seems, to bring creative ideas to fruition.

Soggiorno was commissioned by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra through a grant from the Missouri Arts Council, with Associate Concertmaster Sylvian Iticovici giving the premiere in April, 1990. Tiberius Klausner, my colleague at the Kansas City Symphony and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, graciously provided the sounds for the tape part.

The realization of the tape follows a format that I have used in many pieces: about 300 sounds were sampled into an AT-Class computer system and were altered, organized and mixed to make the  tape part, which was then recorded on audio tape with a stereo converter.  The process of using only violin sounds for the tape part creates a timbral uniformity between soloist and accompaniment, such that the piece takes on the character of a “concerto for performer and him/herself.”

Joshua Fineberg

Empreintes seeks to steal bits and pieces of movement and color from a musical evolution, using them to create something new: a sort of halo spiralling around a musical process. At times it may seem simply an imprint of its surroundings, enriching without truly altering its context; however, at other moments, it may become a force of transformation itself. By capturing fragments of one object and transmitting them to another, both it and the objects from which the material has been captured are changed. Thus textures and colors do not interact directly, as in most pieces : they must pass through this conduit, whose presence may be more or less felt depending on the moment. The evolutions become oblique, in a way: objects maintain their own inertia while slowly being pulled toward each other. In the space between and around them is the new object, which exists as a kind of transformed reflection of its surroundings.

Realizing this piece came after more than two years of research and development at IRCAM. Using an algorithm created by a German psycho-acoustician Ernst Terhardt (this algorithm allows an analysis with hundreds, or even thousands of values to be reduced to only the few that are most significant to the perception), we were able to analyze extremely complex sounds and, without pretending to acquire a complete picture, capture and exploit the essential imprint of the sounds. For this piece, the algorithm was implemented in “real-time,” permitting the computer to “listen” to and in a sense “understand” what the ensemble is playing. Thus the machine can react musically, stealing the bits and pieces of the realization that are most important in the current execution. If pitches are slightly higher or lower, the resulting sounds produced by the computer will be changed (as in an ensemble, with players constantly adjusting their intonation) but much more subtle changes will also be taken into account ( the brilliance of the flute, or the violinists vibrato, etc.).

Through this approach we have, I believe, been able to generate a sort of musicality from a machine. It no longer need be either master or slave, but, like the halo—reflecting back the stolen bits of material from which it is made while producing a new musical object—may find a way of capturing an essence and making it into something else, something musical rather than mechanical.

The work of development was central to the creation of Empreintes. I would like to especially acknowledge the work of three people without whom the piece could not have been realized. Gérard Assayag, to whom the piece is dedicated, worked on the first implementation of the Terhardt algorithm at IRCAM and created a real-time interpolation object for use with the current version. Todor Todoroff performed the daunting task of bringing the algorithm into real-time and tailoring the implementation to our needs. And finally, Eric Daubresse who realized the real-time synthesis environment, collaborated on every stage of the technical realization of the piece, as well as generally kept everything from falling apart.

Scipio Wakes Up
Mark Applebaum

Although its concerns are numerous (and often esoteric), Scipio Wakes Up (and Smells the Coffee) is the product of two obsessions. First, for several years I have been designing and constructing sound-sculptures: percussion instruments made of junk, hardware and found-objects mounted on electro-acoustic soundboards. Except for its particular usage of violin and bassoon, Scipio consists exclusively of sounds derived from sound-sculptures, first from the sculptures themselves, and later via (mutated) samples of the sculptures, triggered by the two keyboardists and two percussionists. 

A second obsession that has informed all 11 works of my Janus Cycle (1992–1996), of which Scipio is ninth, has been a bipartite formal design in which a monolith (of primarily textually unified material) is juxtaposed with a kaleidoscope (of short materials which constantly interrupt one another, a mercurial orgy). Purposefully schizophrenic, each section is oppositional—although not antithetical—in character, notation and compositional intention.  Scipio aspires to suggest, although not to articulate, the issues of similarity and polarity that occur at the intersection of its parts.

It was, however, the Paul Dresher Ensemble’s unique instrumentation, abilities, open-mindedness and dedication, which ultimately inspired the work. Scipio is dedicated with great thanks to Paul Dresher, who commissioned it.

Nü Kuan Tzu
Mathew Rosenblum

Nü Kuan Tzu is a nine movement 22-minute piece commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts and completed in 1996. Each movement is very different—the styles range from impressionistic to microtonal to pop. Perhaps the textual makeup of the piece is, however, its most distinguishing characteristic. The work uses Sung Dynasty “music poems” in combination with poetry by Guillaume Appolinaire and Arthur Rimbaud. Digitally sampled texts are interwoven with live singers who are singing in French, Chinese or combinations of the two languages. The duality existing at the textual level—Chinese vs. French—is only one of many dualities within the piece. Two tuning systems are employed in this work, the normal 12 note equal tempered system, and a 20 one note-to-the-octave “just” system which I designed to be used in conjunction with the twelve note equal tempered system. In this work keyboard #1 (acoustic) is tuned normally, while keyboard #2 (digital) is altered in the following way: C#, D#, F# and G# are raised approximately 37 cents, and Bb, B, C, E and F are lowered approximately 51 cents. The nine added notes form natural intervals with each other and with notes from the standard 12 note system. The singers and other instruments in the ensemble also use notes from the 20 one note system. Nü Kuan Tzu is comprised of movements which use either altered or tempered tunings, or at times, both.

Approximately one half of the texts used in Nü Kuan Tzu are Sung Dynasty “music poems” (Tz’ü) written by the poet and lyricist Wen T’ing-yün. These poems were written to existing “pop” tunes of the time, with careful attention being paid to the tonal structure of the words in relation to the melody, and, most importantly, the phonic surface of the word successions. The results are exquisite “sound poems” which have a wonderful inherent musicality to them. These poems have been carefully transliterated into the International Phonetic Alphabet in both the Mandarin and Ancient dialects. The Chinese texts are combined with French poems by Apollinaire and Rimbaud, which were also chosen for their rich sonic content and similar themes. At times, notably movements I and IX, the languages and poems are mixed together, emphasizing fine phonic differences between the two languages and dialects. At other times, entire poems, both Chinese and French, unfold at the same time, or individually, sometimes spoken, sometimes sung. Movement VII, “Han Shao,” is the centerpiece of the work. It is based on a poem using a poetic meter which was reserved specifically for poems referring to Taoist priestesses, and which usually dealt with the longing for an unattainable divine lover. The movement begins by presenting both the Mandarin and Ancient versions of this poem. The title of the piece, Nü Kuan Tzu, is derived from the name of this poetic meter.

Friday, October 12, 2001

String Theory
Steve Mackey

Composing music is for me a very real metaphor for the idea that we construct our reality. It could be said that all my music springs from the simultaneous fear and excitement at the incomprehensible possibilities of reality, whether stimulated by a star-filled sky or a physics lecture.

I wouldn’t say that String Theory has a “program” per se, but I did imagine that for the first three-quarters of the piece, each phrase logically, earnestly, and at times, desperately turns over the ramifications of this mathematical view of the universe. There are flickers of understanding but over all, the trajectory is toward a chaos of thought in which string theory (small “s”) remains incomprehensible—nevertheless haven shaken confidence in a traditional/perceptual view of the natural world.

Then, in a cathartic eruption, the chaos gives way to a non-linear, intuitive and ecstatic vision/understanding. In this sense, I suppose String Theory (big “S”) is a piece about spiritual/mystical/religious revelation born from scientific discipline.

There are also some more concrete manifestations of string theory. The idea that a simple linear sweep of the hand along what seemed to be a two dimensional space would in “reality” be engaging many more dimensions was musically suggestive to me.

I imagined a piece which used the “flattest” most unuanced musical material—scales—to engage multiple levels of memory and perception and create the illusion of counterpoint, harmonic motion and expressive light and dark. The scales interact with the natural resonance—the gravitational field, so to speak—of a string quartet’s open strings. Just as string players use their open strings to check where they are, the open strings and their natural harmonics (which I use frequently) enable the listener to follow the progress of the width-less scales as they delineate a path through a large multi-dimensional expressive space.

The digital delay adds yet another dimension and warps time-space as the scales echo at a tempo slightly different than the one in which they were originally delivered.

I realize that this note is perhaps as opaque as string theory. But it should be remembered that what I was thinking about while writing the piece need not limit what you hear in the piece. Music is a transaction, composer and listener both bring experiences and preoccupations—realities—to the concert hall. My ultimate ambition for String Theory is that it be a fascinating arrangement of sounds in time.

Ricardo Dal Farra

Homotecia (from homos: similar, and thiténai: to place, put in place, arrange) was originally composed by Ricardo Dal Farra in 1992.

The sound events recorded now on a fixed media (tape or CD) were at first generated and structured with a computer using an algorithmic composer music program, and later edited with a MIDI sequencer. The score for the acoustic instruments was also elaborated with a computer, extracting and notating only some selected parts or voices from the full computer generated part, and representing what the performers could play and not what they must play. Musicians are instructed to follow a set of rules guiding the performance, going from freedom and then independence from the fixed pre-recorded electronic part on the begining, through the gradual adaptation and integration with it, until they reach a close and tight relationship.

Freedom is the basis of this piece. And freedom in a creative context, where fundamental responsibility conditions for each member of the performing group (or society) set the frame to approach a complex and rich final phase. The musical concepts developed by the acoustic instruments are inspired on cells, phrases and ideas coming from the pre-recorded electronic part, shaping progressively a flexible but highly balanced and coordinated living (music) system.

This 2001 Homotecia version for string quartet, flute, percussion and pre-recorded sounds is a revised arrangement from the original mixed work for bandoneón and tape.

Fog Tropes II
Ingram Marshall

Fog Tropes was, at first, written for brass sextet and tape. The idea of a version for strings and tape (the tape part is identical to the original) is predicated on a supposition that the pre-recorded sounds and the live sounds would be of contrasting natures.

The tape part existed independently as a composition created in 1981 as an accompaniment to a performance art event. The collage of sounds from the maritime areas of San Francisco—they are mostly foghorns, but sea birds and other ambient sounds are heard as well—were wedded with vocal laments and sounds of the gambuh (Balinese flute.) In that form the tape piece, known simply as Fog, served me well as an adjuct to a live electronic work called Gradula Requiem. When I added the brass parts in 1982, I troped the music in the medieval sense with a new layer. Now it is twice troped.

13 Loops
Rand Steiger

This piece, written in 1988, reflects my interest at the time in attempting to create a synthesis of an extended serial pitch language with repetitive and transformative techniques usually associated with minimalism. In the outer sections the flute begins looping passages which are taken up by the rest of the ensemble. As the loop texture evolves, a transition occurs from elaborate aperiodic material to a simpler motoric music that then serves as an accompaniment, as the flute assumes the role of soloist. The center section begins with a flute cadenza, then develops a series of solos for all the instruments. The solos are then compressed gradually into a dense contrapuntal texture that evaporates, once again leaving the flute alone to play a cadenza. All the musicians play into microphones which are connected to a computer controlled mixer and signal processor. This allows for a variety of digital effects (delay, flanging, chorusing, reverb, etc.) to be assigned to the instruments at different times throughout the piece. 13 Loops was written for the California E.A.R. Unit, and is dedicated to the flutist Dorothy Stone. It was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University.

Mark Wingate

Prophecy (1991) is a work for amplified flute and digital effects. In this case the effects are generated by a Yamaha SPX90, a rather dated multi-effects unit by today’s standards but nonetheless suitable for the particular effects employed. They are: gated reverb, delayed and exaggerated vibrato, and pitch shifting with delay. The pitch shift gives the flutist the ability to play more than one note simultaneously (more accurately a millisecond or two later). Coupled with digital delay, the pitch shifting programs allow the normally monophonic flute to be played polyphonically at a particular tempo. That is, the amount of millisecond delay determines the metronome marking.

Ariadne's Thread
Roger Reynolds

Ariadne’s Thread, for string quartet and computer generated sound, arose out of a longstanding interest in line, whether evoked as sound or inscribed graphically by such masterful hands as those of Sengai, Klee or Rembrandt. Continuity, directionality, inflection, intensification, rarefaction, whimsy, even violence are subsumed in the manifestations and depictions that line allows. Ariadne’s Thread is for string quartet and computer generated sound, which supports, augments, alternates with, and occasionally replaces the instrumentalists’ efforts, expanding the range of what an unaided string ensemble can accomplish.

Elements from the myth of the piece—the Minotaur’s vertiginous rage, the number seven, the strategy of surreptitious substitution, and Dionysus “in the wings”—but, after all, it is not meant as illustration. Having composed two earlier works that address the quartet traditions, I allowed a less reasoned obsessiveness to invade this one, an obsession that requires a particular sort of unanimity.

Ariadne’s Thread was written for the Arditti Quartet and was premiered by them in Messiaen Hall at Radio France in December, 1994. The piece was jointly commissioned by Radio France, the Florence Gould Foundation and Les Ateliers UPIC. The computer materials were realized in Paris at the UPIC studios and assembled at the University of California, San Diego, where Timothy Labor was my musical assistant. Michael Theodore was my musical assistant in the quadraphonic version.

Saturday, October 13, 2001
Electro-Acoustic Composers Out Front!

Dan Trueman

My set will include a new piece for electronic chamber ensemble, followed immediately by an electronic improvisation by my duo “interface.”

[leland arnstandt]

Going about the daily grind, walking here, driving there, semi-conscious. In mid-stride, you stumble on something that shreds the dependable fabric of your day. There is a moment of silence, stillness, as you freeze, trying not to disturb the fragile balance of neural chemicals and hormones that have suddenly taken on a new configuration.

Perhaps others saw it coming.

This pseudo-poem captures some of what I was thinking about composing this piece,and lent its name. dis-(re)locations was composed over the course of several months, during which I relocated and traveled extensively. I completed it the morning of September 11, 2001, though it was titled well before then; I was holding the score in my hand when I heard “the news,” and had the most dislocating experience of my life. It is hard to imagine what “re-locating” from a tragedy like that will be like; I guess we will find out. dis-(re)locations is dedicated to the victims of the 9/11/01 attack and their families, though I am ashamed to make such a meager offering.

I am joined by Courtney Orlando (violin) and Florent Renard-Payen (cello) on dis-(re)locations, and by Curtis Bahn (sensor-bass) for the improvisation.

Martha Mooke [go to Martha's bio]


Mari Kimura [go to Mari's bio]


Golan Levin

Scribble is a live color-music performance originally commissioned from Golan Levin in September 2000 by the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria. Reviving and updating a decades-old tradition of kinetic light performance, Scribble features tightly-coupled sounds and dynamic visuals which are at times carefully scored and at other times loosely improvised. This evening, Scribble is presented as a duet composed and performed by Levin and Greg Shakar. Scribble is performed on Levin’s Audiovisual Environment Suite (AVES), a set of five interactive systems which allow people to create and perform abstract animation and synthetic sound in real time. Each environment is an experimental attempt to design an interface which is supple and easy to learn, yet can also yield interesting, infinitely variable and personally expressive performances in both the visual and aural domains. Ideally, these systems permit their interactants to engage in a flow state of pure experience.

Sunday, October 14, 2001
Technology And The Orchestra
American Composers Orchestra

Le Partage des Eaux
Tristan Murail

Le Partage des Eaux (1995–1996) is a piece for large orchestra based on the sound analysis of a wave breaking against the shore. Thanks to the program Audioscript (made at IRCAM for Macintosh) which I have at my home, I analyzed the minutest details of the first seconds of the wave’s sound, and broke this sound down into some 40 or 50 successive segments. The first step then consisted of eliminating all of the weakest components that did not play a fundamental role in the sound, and then selecting those of the fifty samples which seemed most interesting to me; in this case, the first eight. Their assemblage constitutes a very unusual musical object, which places itself beyond any notion of harmonicity or inharmonicity: the structure, extremely rich and dense, is truly chaotic.

Next, I orchestrated this object in the most direct manner possible, principally using the fluidity of the flute and the clarinets to reconstruct the core of the analyzed sound, which I colored with the orchestra’s highest instruments (piccolos, violin harmonics, piano, etc.), before gradually contorting it, while still remaining faithful to the initial orchestration, and introducing increasingly varied orchestrations as the distortion augmented. I particularly used certain polyphonic functions from Patchwork, employing functions that I had myself programmed, to conceive and develop several simultaneous levels of transformation and distortion carried out at different speeds. I also used a technique of virtual vocoding, which enabled me to obtain a hybrid timbre by applying the wave’s chaotic sound structure to various types of inharmonic or harmonic spectra.

Tod Machover

Sparkler was commissioned by American Composers Orchetsra for its Orchestra Technology Initiative, and composed in spring and summer of this year. It was designed to be the opening work of our Toy Symphony—a collaboration between myself, my team at the MIT Media Lab, and orchestras and children around the world—that premieres in Europe in Spring 2002 and comes to the U.S. next season. A simple, sinuous melody weaves throughout the piece, beginning and ending in calmness, but rapidly and delicately undulating along the way. This melody varies continuously—pulling in its wake tiny fragments of remembered classical and popular tunes; expanding into more and more intricate textures; and finally being subsumed in a series of dense sonic masses at the work’s culminating moment.

Sparkler explores many different relationships between orchestra and technology, sometimes contrasting the two worlds, sometimes complementing one with the other, yet at other times blending the two into a new whole. Three keyboards—each with a specially designed controller for shaping timbre and articulation—play and modulate much of the electronics. Unlike many previous works where only solo instruments are amplified or electronically processed, in this piece microphones capture the entire orchestral sound, which is analyzed live into “perceptual parameters” through software written by Tristan Jehan at MIT. These instrumental sound masses—which are performed with a certain freedom by players and conductor—generate and control (pushing, pulling, twisting and morphing) complex electronic extensions, turning the whole ensemble into a kind of “hyperorchestra.”

Sparkler is dedicated to the victims of the September 11th atrocities and to children worldwide who—through their generosity, open-mindedness, sense of humor and unbridled imagination—can help the rest of us heal, regain our courage and move forward with renewed energy, enthusiasm and compassion.

Before the Butterfly
Morton Subotnick

This work, composed in 1974–75, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic under a grant to six orchestras by the National Endowment for the Arts in the celebration of the United States Bicentennial. The first performances of Before the Butterfly were given by the Los Angeles Philharmonic in February, 1976, Zubin Mehta conducting. Mehta also conducted the work with the New York Philharmonic in the spring of 1977. The Chicago Symphony played it under Andrew Davis’s direction in December of 1976, and Davis also conducted it with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in October, 1978.

The score calls for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets, contra-bassoon, three horns, two trumpets, trombone, bass tuba, celesta, timpani, glockenspiel, antique cymbals, marimba, xylophone, two large gongs, suspended cymbal, tenor drum, snare drum and strings. In addition, there are six solo instrumentalists, violin, viola, cello, harp, trumpet and trombone, plus further percussion instruments (suspended coil spring, suspended cymbal, medium gong and high bongo drum); these are played into microphones. Each solo instrument is linked to an amplified violin, and the solo instrument amplifiers are “routed to a frequency shifting device which alters the amplified signal by shifting the pitch down one quarter-tone.” The electronic modification equipment here used was especially constructed for Subotnick’s various “Butterfly” pieces. The performance duration is approximately 22 minutes.

Edgard Varèse

In 1953, the realization of Varèse’s long-imagined sounds came a step closer when he received from an anonymous donor an Ampex tape recorder. He set to work collecting sounds for the tape parts of Déserts, a composition already in progress. He completed the piece in the studios of Radiodiffusion-Television Francaise in 1954, and Déserts, for 20 instrumentalists and two-track tape, was broadcast live in stereo over French radio on December 2. The Déserts of the title referred to “not only physical deserts of sand, sea, mountains and snow, outer space, deserted city streets . . . but also this distant inner space . . . where man is alone in a world of mystery and essential solitude.” The orchestration of piano, vibraphone, glockenspiel, xylophone, bells and winds contrasts with harsher taped sounds of factory noises and percussion instruments. He revised and finished the Déserts tapes and the ending of Arcana at the Columbia–Princeton Electronic Music Center.

The film for Edgard Varèse's Deserts was created by video and electronic media artist Bill Viola, originally for the Ensemble Modern. Mr. Viola's images explore the phenomena of sense perception as a language of the body and avenue to self-knowledge, making the video a compelling and meditative counterpoint to Varèse's own ideas on the music and perception. Viola has created videotapes, architectural video installations, sound environments, electronic music performances, and works for television broadcast. He has exhibited his video artworks at major museums worldwide, and has been instrumental in the establishment of video as an accepted form of contemporary art. A survey exhibition of his work at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, (1987) was the first time that a museum devoted several galleries to the work of a video artist.

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