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Reich: Desert Music

Can you guess this piece? Here’s a hint: minimally dry…

The Desert Music” was a transitional work for Steve Reich. Composed in 1982, this suite for chorus and instruments exists in two versions—one for large orchestra and chorus, the other (which we’ve just heard) for a smaller chamber group. At this point, Reich was moving away from electronic tape music and the extreme avant-gardism that had characterized his early career, and towards more traditional musical genres and subjects. With texts taken from a book by American poet William Carlos Williams, “The Desert Music” uses the idea of the Desert to examine man’s capacity for self-awareness and discipline. Reich has explained his choice of texts with allusions to the Desert as a site for both biblical revelation and modern atomic testing.

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