[Pt. II – Proj. 1] ~ Listening Log – Music between the wars 1919–1945 – Edgar Varese- Deserts

Varese Deserts

My immediate impression of the piece is in fact of a vast open space. Varese named it ‘desert’, me, I think of space… Space being the biggest known physical desert in our Universe. The music and soundscape gives an illusion of huge depth, a 3D type of effect and it immediately brings visuals to mind. I would expect this to be the soundtrack to a film, perhaps involving some type of  interstellar travel and orbiting heavenly bodies. My experience of this music is entirely visceral and connected to emotions and almost altered states of mind the various sounds cause.  It would be an understatement to say that I love it! When reading about Deserts (which I only did subsequent to listening) it seems like this might have indeed been music for a film. Vera’s biography says he was influenced by Busoni and Leonardo Da Vinci and that he sought to collaborate with Antonin Artaud. It is perhaps not surprising that I am instantly drawn to his music since all the various artists and thinkers have meant a great deal to me. All working at the alchemical/magical intersection of science and art. This is how I perceive Varese, as a magical visionary way ahead of his time. Understood by a few select and misunderstood or perhaps completely ignored by the larger public. The influence his innovations, both technical and conceptual, on future generations and electronic music are immeasurable. The list of people he influenced is very long and includes people such as Pierre Boulez, Karl Stockhausen, Luigi Nono, Olivier Messiaen, john Zorn, Frank Zappa and many many more. His way of perceiving sound structures as spatial, architectural entities and the methods of using tape, theremins, percussive timbres of both musical instruments and other objects were at the forefront of music technology development and he even predicted computerised music.

The difference between Deserts and for instance Amerique is one of size and subtetly. His art in Deserts is refined and extremely sensitive. The scale is bigger and the dynamic range greater. It is both more experimental and more musical at the same time. An evolution and refinement rather than a departure.