Posts Tagged ‘Bill Viola’

Edgard Varèse’s and Bill Viola’s Deserts, by Alfonso Alberti

I had a chance to see Bill Viola’s movie, Déserts, in 2008 at Rome’s “Music Park”, in the framework of a concert of the Ensemble Intercontemporain for the Accademia Filarmonica Romana. That experience of an intersection between contemporary videoart and 20th-century music undoubtedly was, a little later, one of the strongest drivers (or even the main driver) of the basic idea of this column. But, ironically, only at the twenty-second issue of the series comes to light the article that should have been the first.

Between the years 1950 and 1954, Edgard Varèse, composer whose significance for the following 20th-century developments is hardly overvalued, wrote Déserts, a broad composition for winds, piano, a wide range of percussions and magnetic tape. The meaning of this work is staggering, because it is one of the earliest compositions where the instrumental live sounds and the electronic recorded sounds interact. The two sound worlds are sharply separated: among the seven sections of the work, the odd-numbered ones are for the instruments, the even-numbered are electronics-only. In a live performance, then, you can see three times the unusual sight of a director halting the musicians, who fold their arms and hand over to the recorded tape.

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Italian version