I am wide/awake. The mind/is listening.”
—William Carlos Williams
Steve Reich’s The Desert Music
The Desert Music takes its title and sets text from William Carlos Williams’ book of collected poems, The Desert Music. Reich wrote,
From this collection I chose parts of The Orchestra and Theocritus: Idyl I – A version from the Greek. From another collection I chose a small part of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower. There are no complete poems used and the arrangement of parts is my own.
The text Reich set, along with the quotation above, may be found here.
David Nice wrote:
The Desert Music certainly isn’t for trance states; as Reich says in an interview on the original LP, ‘I actually prefer the music to be heard by somebody who’s totally wide awake, hearing more than he or she usually does, rather than by someone who’s just spaced out and receiving a lot of ephemeral impressions.’ As the poetry of William Carlos Williams, a real revelation to me, has it as set in the fourth movement, ‘I am wide/awake. The mind/is listening.’
Listen to Stephen Johnson’s excellent Discovering Music episode on The Desert Music here. To hear Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony and Roy Harris’s Third Symphony, each of which Johnson mentions, click here.
Credits: Quotations may be found at the links indicated in the text. As always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, all photographs are mine.