Déserts (1950–1954) is a piece by Edgard Varèse for brass (14 winds), percussion (5), piano, and tape[1]. Percussion instruments are exploited for their resonant potential, rather than used solely as accompaniment.[2] According to Varèse the title of the piece regards, "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."[2]

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 ([year needed]), [3]

The piece was created as a soundtrack to a modernist film.[4] According to "Blue" Gene Tyranny, "It is now recognized as an exceptional example of truly humanistic music."[1] It, "has been described...as atonal, athematic,...amotivic," and its orchestration has, "been labeled subtle."[2] "The plan of Déserts, unprecedented, was that electronic and orchestral music should be brought face to face: three sequences of 'organized sound' on tape are interpolated into a composition for an orchestra of wind, piano, and percussion. Babbitt has drawn attention to the subtlety with which Varèse assembles timbres from his ensemble, and indeed much of the scoring suggests an almost Webernian care for timbre-melody—something quite new in Varèse's music, the instruments being used for example, to vary the color of the sustained pitches that are stations of polarity in the musical progress."[4]

With electronic sections based upon factory sounds and percussion instruments, Varèse began composition in 1953 (or 1952[4]) upon the anonymous gift of a Ampex tape recorder, worked further on the piece at Pierre Schaeffer's studio at Radiodiffusion-Télévision Française, and revised it at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. The electronic sections where composed later and the piece may be performed without, reducing its length by seven minutes.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Blue" Gene Tyranny (2010). "Déserts for brass, percussion, piano & tape", AllMusic.com.
  2. ^ a b c d Sitsky, Larry (2002). Music of the Twentieth-Century Avant-Garde: a Biocritical Sourcebook, p.533. ISBN 9780313296895.
  3. ^ Charbonnier, Georges (1970). Entretiens avec Edgard Varese, p.156. Paris. Cited in Griffiths (1995), p.129.
  4. ^ a b c Griffiths, Paul (1995). Modern Music and After, p.129. ISBN 9780198165118.

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  • deserts — ► PLURAL NOUN (usu. in phrase get or receive one s just deserts) ▪ what a person deserves with regard to reward or punishment. ORIGIN Old French desert, from deservir serve well, deserve …   English terms dictionary

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  • deserts — [n] what is due one chastening, chastisement, comeuppance, compensation, deserving, discipline, disciplining, due, get hers*, get his*, guerdon, lumps*, meed, merit, payment, penalty, punishment, recompense, requital, retribution, return, revenge …   New thesaurus

  • Déserts — Désert (homonymie) Cette page d’homonymie répertorie les différents sujets et articles partageant un même nom. Désert est un nom commun ou plus rarement un nom propre qui peut désigner : Sommaire 1 Géographie 2 Histo …   Wikipédia en Français

  • deserts — n. reward punishment to get one s just deserts * * * [ reward ] [ punishment ] to get one s just deserts …   Combinatory dictionary

  • deserts — de|serts [dıˈzə:ts US ˈzə:rts] n get/receive your (just) deserts to be punished in a way that you deserve ▪ Offenders should receive their just deserts …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • deserts — Synonyms and related words: castigation, chastening, chastisement, comeuppance, compensation, condign punishment, correction, desert, disciplinary measures, discipline, due reward, dues, ferule, infliction, judgment, judicial punishment, just… …   Moby Thesaurus

  • deserts — de|serts [ dı zɜrts ] noun someone s just deserts bad things that happen to someone because they deserve it …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • deserts — [dɪ zə:ts] plural noun (often in phr. get (or receive) one s just deserts) what a person deserves with regard to reward or (more usually) punishment. Origin ME: via OFr. from deservir (see deserve) …   English new terms dictionary

  • deserts — get your just deserts to be punished in a way that you deserve …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

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